Debbie of Murky Depths Dyeworks is so ready for spring with six new colors of her Harbour Singles fingering and five of Triton MCN DK that are live in the shop. There’s also mohair and four new colors of Sparkle sock.
Ashleigh Wempe has also been dreaming of warmer weather and is offering a Buy 2 Get 1 Free Spring Fever sale using coupon code “SPRINGSALE” for all patterns on her website and Ravelry until next Friday.
This month’s colorway for Stardust Fiber Studio’s monthly subscription box is inspired by the Disney movie Lilo and Stitch. The box features two skeins of ocean-themed yarn and an exclusive enamel pin.
Michelle of Crafty Flutterby Creations has partnered with Anzula Luxury Fibers on a MKAL to celebrate the start of spring. Cavorting With Colors, which combines colorful yarns and winding cables, will kick off with an April 16 cast-on.
Emily O’Brien’s latest design is inspired by the glamour, elegance and intricate architectural details of the Art Deco-style Waldorf Astoria New York.
Michele of MAB Elements is celebrating Stitch Marker Mania, with all MAB Elements stitch marker sets buy two, get one FREE with coupon code SMM2021 at checkout.
This week, designer Mary Annarella released a much more fashionable version of the mid-aughts Snuggie: Cozy McBlanket. This sweater is essentially a blanket with sleeves, but Mary has worked her magic with some cleverly placed short rows to help it curve around your shoulders and neck for a better fit. It calls for five colors of sportweight yarn, and I’m sure you can find some that are prettier than the fire-engine-red fleece I was sporting in Winter 2008.
We have a lot of fun new things planned for you at our upcoming virtual event, Indie Across the Pond! In addition to shopping for amazing yarn, you’ll also be able to:
• Have tea with Amy Florence of Stranded Dyeworks and the Stranded Podcast — she’ll be joining us Friday from the east coast of Scotland to kick off the show!
• Show off your smarts at virtual trivia!
• Enter our KAL/CAL and win prizes from Indie Untangled and some of our awesome sponsors: Garthenor Organic, La Cave à Laine and Yedraknits!
• Hang out and meet our fabulous vendors in a casual environment at Saturday and Sunday’s teas!
There are still spots available for our free bingo event on Saturday, March 20 at 3 p.m. EDT/8 p.m. CET, hosted by Indie Untangled event producer Petrina Hicks. This is a popular event, so register soon!
Jillian of WeeOnes has several brand new stitch marker sets including dinosaurs, arctic foxes and the latest installment of the surprise markers with a spring theme. And to celebrate Jillian reaching 10K sales on Etsy, get 15% off your order with the code YAY10K.
Michelle of Crafty Flutterby Creations has new additions to her menagerie of end minders, which help tame your loose ends, including playful pups, curious kittens and — special for March — Mindful Manatees.
Emerald of Stardust Fiber Studio has released part two of her Greek Gods collection. This collection contains nine main colorways, each based off a deity from Greek Mythology, and two special features. A matching stitch marker set is also available.
Victoria of Eden Cottage Yarns just had an update of Pendle 4ply, a classic yarn that’s pure Superwash Merino. It’s available on 20 colorways, from deep and rich to the soft and pale. There’s also a spring sale going on.
Monica of Gothfarm Yarn has five types of roving in stock, including Cirrus, a pencil roving made from blended Jacob and Shetland sheep wool, and Coopworth, Navajo-Churro, Ultisol and 100% Jacob Sheep roving.
Bonnie of Yank Your Yarn has some Big Clippy progress keepers, which are oversized, movable single stitch markers featuring a 21-23mm lobster clasp for use on your chunkiest knitting and crochet projects.
Sharon of Garage Dyeworks has a new colorway called Mahalo.
Imagine a sheep, as unique as the one Antoine de St Exupery drew one morning for the Little Prince. That is the Hog Island sheep, from somewhat unknown origins, and needing protection, a special sheep, a sheep like no other… The Hog Island sheep is unique to the United States. It originated on Hog Island, a barrier island off the coast of Virginia. So few of them are left today that they are a rare, critical, conservation breed.
In the words of Jeanette Beranger, senior manager of the Livestock Conservancy, the Hog Island Sheep is a “snapshot of livestock from the 1700s.” To understand how special the Hog Island sheep is, we have to go back in time 400 years, when Hog Island was settled. Along with the settlers came sheep of British origin. It is also believed that Merino sheep were already roaming free on the island, after having been abandoned by ship-wrecked Spaniards. Even though we cannot clearly match the DNA of the Hog Island sheep with any modern English breed, some surmise that Down breeds have been contributors to this unique sheep.
The sheep roamed the rugged island freely. The settlers would gather them once a year to shear them. The rugged conditions set the stage for the development of the breed into a sheep well adapted to foraging and living in harsh, wet weather conditions. Rugged life continued, unchanged for both the settlers and the sheep for hundreds of years, each year bringing its share of storms. But in 1933, after a terrible hurricane, causing massive erosion that reduced the size of the island by half, the residents of Hog Island found themselves forced to abandon the island and move their homes to the mainland. The sheep were left on the island.
Photo courtesy of Holly Hill Ranch
In the 1970s, the island was purchased by the Nature Conservancy. A decision was made to remove the now feral sheep from the island to protect the natural vegetation. The sheep were resettled at particular sites, among them Mount Vernon and Virginia Tech, and efforts began to study and preserve the breed. Hog Island sheep can still be seen today in living museums like the Accokeek Foundation National Colonial Farm. They are also being raised by farmers dedicated to the preservation of rare breeds.
Geographic isolation, the conditions on the island, few predators, and the lack of human intervention allowed the development of a hardy, self-shedding, parasite-resistant, foraging breed, which reproduced efficiently, with ewes often birthing twins. Most Hog Island sheep are white, with 10 to 20% of them being black. The lambs have the cutest speckled faces. Adults often have dark legs and faces. The Hog Island Sheep is a smaller sheep, weighing around 90 to 150 pounds. It is also a slow-growing sheep, taking 18 months to mature. Alert and docile, they prefer to live in tight flocks.
The raw fibers are very high in lanolin, a perfect protection from harsh weather. The fibers are dense, compact, with a very tight, disorganized crimp, and a matte appearance. The staple length ranges from 1.5 to 2.5 inches. The newer generations, which are being fed a richer diet can have a staple length up to 3 inches. Overall, the staple length is short, which makes the fiber a perfect candidate for light, warm woolen yarns. The fineness of the fibers is uneven, with some being appropriate for next-to-the-skin wear, while others should be reserved for outerwear.
Raw fleece from Holly Hill Ranch
To spin, I used the carded roving I had purchased, and spun it with a supported long draw to create a lofty woolen yarn. After spinning two fine singles, I plied them together to create a 2-ply yarn. What struck me most was the incredible bounce and elasticity of the yarn!
Woolen yarn spun from Holly Hill Ranch fibers
I knitted a simple swatch, which I then dyed with natural dyes. The swatch was knitted on US 4 needles. The soft matte halo is clearly noticeable, slightly reducing the stitch definition, while giving it a gentle subtlety. The incredible elasticity of the yarn reduces the openness of the sample lacework. The swatch took color beautifully, showcasing the matte appearance. The swatch also proved to be naturally felt resistant, a credit to the Down breed origins of the Hog Island sheep.
A dyed swatch from handspun woolen yarn.
Armed with the knowledge I gained from swatching, I decided to knit a warm, comfy pair of house socks, which would encounter less wear than regular socks, while taking full advantage of the elasticity of the fibers!
So where can you get this very special fiber? The Livestock Conservancy has created a wonderful program called Shave ‘Em to Save ‘Em. Shepherds register their flocks of conservation breeds and are listed as providers of rare fibers and yarns. Fiber artists are encouraged to try different breeds and get stickers for their breed passport! Because of its smaller size, and slower growth, the Hog Island sheep is not as attractive for large-scale farming. It is thanks to the Livestock Conservancy, the dedication of rare breed farmers, and the desire of fiber artists like you and me to preserve breeds by working with breed-specific fibers, like the Hog Island, that we can hope to see this amazing breed thrive in the future.
Lanivendole’s newest yarn base has a certain something about it as well. Aura is a 100% Italian Alpaca sport-weight yarn named for its soft halo that brings out its natural energy. Like all of Stefania and Giulia’s yarn, the fiber is from a small farm, this one based in southern Tuscany. They kept two original dark colors and added a range of spring-y hues, hand dyed to “welcome the upcoming season with braveness and positivity.”
The yarn, which comes in roughly 382-yard/350-meter skeins will be available today starting at 7 p.m. Central European Time (1 p.m. Eastern, or five hours from when this email went out).
Speaking of Italian yarn and European time zones, you’ll have the opportunity to meet Stefania and Giulia when you join is in a few short weeks for Indie Across the Pond, our next virtual show! We have a fantastic line-up of 20 vendors from not only Italy, but Denmark, France, Greece, Hungary, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and the UK.
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If you’re looking to jazz up your takeout cocktails, check out this new hand-painted porcelain drinkware from our friends Jenn and Meghan of Portland-based jamPDX. These tumblers, created exclusively for Indie Untangled, keep your icy drinks cold.
Victoria of Eden Cottage Yarns has updated her Rokeby mitts pattern — released all the way back in 2010! — with new pictures and some clarifications to the instructions, and added a companion cowl. Both patterns use two colors of her Milburn 4ply™ (Superwash BFL and silk) and kits are on the website.
Megan of Megs & Co has collaborated with her Instagram friend Isabella Tonski, better known as Bellas Custom Crochets, to curate a collection of rainbow-themed colorways for her Hope & a Future wrap. The pattern is symbolic of the promise of a light at the end of a challenging time.
Missy of This Craft Or That has kits for the Succulent Spikes pattern by Lindsay Potter featured in the Seed Club from Yarn Garden. The kit features Hidden Gems, a blend of 80% Superwash Merino and 20% bamboo fingering weight yarn, in the Garden Party colorway.
Marian of Marianated Yarns is collaborating with designer Katy Carroll of Katinka Designs on a multicolored cowl kit to celebrate ’80s movie icon John Cusak.
Today’s the last day to preorder Terri of AT Haynes House Yarns’ Knitting Our National Parks colorway, called I Got One Just Like It In My Living Room (Close Encounters of the Third Kind), inspired by Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming and a certain ’70s movie. It’s available on her sock and DK-weight bases. As always, this yarn supports the National Park Foundation.
Stephanie of SpaceCadet has released her first design! The D’aeki Wrap is designed to show off SpaceCadet’s mini skeins or any other collection of colors, with a herringbone pattern that shifts the color flow along the length of the piece and uses the Join As You Go method (no seaming!).
The Little Red Dress KAL from Knitting Hope tells the story of Judy Fleischer Kolb, who was born in the Shanghai Ghetto after her family fled Nazi Germany in 1939, and her her little red dress, which she donated to the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center. The dress was turned into a knitting pattern by designer Melissa Shinsato.
The Bad Lux Designs Romantisch collection has swoon-worthy colors available on Bulky, DK and Fingering weights.
These new WeeOnes penguin stitch markers are appropriate for these Arctic temperatures! They come with one Adélie, one macaroni penguin, one chinstrap and one emperor with it’s baby.
These magnetic shawl pins from Michele of MAB Elements celebrate the Pantone colors of the Year for 2021.
Selena of Sweater Sisters is partnering with Erica Heusser on a kit release for her new pattern, Varia Mitts. They feature a Fair Isle pattern depicting an owl settled in on a branch with the silvery background.
Bushra Shahid, who runs the handmade business Snowool, knits at her home in Karachi, Pakistan.
Sitting by the fire, and in front of her television, on a cold winter night in Lahore, Huma Munir knits yet another sweater for one of her grandchildren. She is engrossed in her work, moving the needles at lightning speed, while watching a drama serial and talking to her family.
This precision and dedication to the craft has come with years of practice. When she was 16, Munir learned from a cousin and fondly remembers her mother knitting, too. “She would be knitting even when she was laying on her bed,” recalls Munir, now 70.
Munir even taught one of her daughters, Mehnaz Nasir, to knit, though Nasir was not able to pass on the craft on to her own daughter.
“My daughter does appreciate my work but she is not interested in learning it,” Nasir says.
The image of older women knitting for their children and grandchildren is a common one in Pakistan’s colder, northern areas.
As September begins, markets in these parts of the country fill up with winter wear. Yet, the advent of fast fashion has not deterred people who still prefer to knit. Some call it a hobby, a passion, or a habit, and others have ventured into the business of selling handmade items.
Huma Munir knits in front of her fireplace in Lahore.
Knitting as a necessity
Knitting in Pakistan used to be one of the only ways one could wear a warm garment in winter. Munir remembers her cousin teaching her how to follow instructions in an English catalogue.
“Of course we didn’t have the internet, so everyone either learned designs from their mothers or through catalogues from England,” she says. “The magazine was called Stitch Craft and was popular back in the day.”
For Munir’s generation, learning how to knit was a necessity.
“In the ‘70s and ‘80s knitting was important because either we couldn’t find good quality sweaters in the market or couldn’t afford imported ones,” she says.
Married to an army officer, Munir had to move around the country every few years, and she and her fellow army wives would knit together during afternoon teas. She remembers learning new stitches and ideas from these women that had been passed down from prior generations.
Designing unique garments for their family members, which would become the envy of others in the community, motivated these women to continue knitting. Some knitted woolen garments year round to be ready for the winter.
“Women would come up with new designs and knit them in secrecy,” says Shahnaz Parveen, supervisor of the knitting department at Behbud Crafts, a nonprofit that aims to preserve age-old crafts in Pakistan and empower women, and an artisan herself. They wouldn’t share the ideas with others. It was a competition.”
Shahnaz Parveen, an artesan and supervisor of the knitting department at Behbud Association, knits a pair of socks.
Behbud, sustaining the craft of knitting in Pakistan
Knitting might be diminishing in popularity as most millennials choose fast fashion, but the craft has a rich history in Pakistan. Sonya Rehman, a writer who recently finished her book, Embroidering Dreams, about the Pakistani nonprofit Behbud, notes that the organization was founded to use craft to empower women two years after the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965. Behbud’s founder, Begum Ahkter Riazuddin, wanted to empower the war widows, gathering them in a garage in Rawalpindi, where they would knit and sew items to sell.
Behbud’s work continues today from an office in Rawalpindi, which teaches women from around the country traditional embroidery and patchwork, such as Kantha and Ralli, cross stitch and, of course, knitting, and pays them to craft items — sweaters, blankets, leggings, caps, and toys — for sale online and at boutiques in major cities across Pakistan. Each knitter earns a minimum of 15,000 PKR (roughly $95 USD) per month, making more for additional items.
“Their knitwear for children remains one of their best-selling items,” Rehman says.
Handmade items for kids at Behbud.
Parveen believes that people would always prefer handmade knitwear for their children over ready-made items.
“The demand for hand-knitted products has increased in the past few years,” Parveen says. “The quality is matchless and keeps children warmer.”
While they even have machines to knit items like leggings for babies, Behbud prefers that home-based workers knit the items themselves from locally-sourced wool.
“While imported wool is softer, it would increase the cost of making and in turn the selling cost,” Parveen says. “Hence, we prefer locally-made wool.”
The Blue Star Wool and General Store, a shop in the heart of Islamabad.
Wool, or the lack of it
Pakistan is the world’s ninth largest wool-producing country according to industry experts, but it is a neglected sector.
“Wool doesn’t add value for our industry,” says Azizullah Gohir, secretary general of the Pakistan Textile Exporters Association. “Productions and consumption is low in Pakistan. Hence, (it is) not believed to be lucrative.”
Cotton is the main focus of the country’s nearly 450 spinning mills, as Pakistan is the fourth largest cotton-producing country in the world, according to Gohir.
According to some experts, 66% of the wool produced in the country is used to make clothes, 30% to make carpets and 4% is used for industrial purposes. Pakistan does not have modern techniques available to increase the production of sheep wool, or technology to process it into fine wool. Hence, industrialists do not believe it to be profitable enough to invest in. The majority of wool yarn and products — about 7 trillion PKR ($44 billion USD) — are imported from other countries, mostly China.
The decrease in wool production is also political, according to some local vendors.
“It was during Musharraf’s era, around 2001 to 2007, when imports became cheap and extensive in Pakistan,” says Sulaiman Sajjad, owner of The Wool Shop in Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital. “Wool shops started facing losses and even mills were shut down. People stopped knitting and started buying cheap Chinese knitwear.”
Suleiman Sajjad of The Wool Shop standing against a wall of colorful wool.
Sajjad’s shop is lined floor to ceiling with a wide variety of colorful wool, knitting needles and other craft accessories.
Sajjad is in his late 30s and his family has been in business for three generations. His grandfather, Abdul Ghani, opened their first wool shop in the 1960s in Moti Bazaar, Rawalpindi, one of the nation’s oldest bazaars. Founded at the turn of the last century, today it houses thousands of shops, including a branch of The Wool Shop.
Sajjad’s shop is one of the very few shops that house wool all year round, with others selling wool only during the winter and switching to other products as seasons change.
At The Wool Shop, about 60% of the wool is local and the rest is imported. According to Sajjad, most wool prepared in Pakistan is made in Gujranwala and Faisalabad, the textile capital of Pakistan, though he says the wool made in Gujranwala is of better quality.
“The wool made in Faisalabad isn’t of great quality because the thread is made of cotton and other impurities, while the one made in Gujranwala at least has good fiber,” he says.
Sajjad also houses imported wool, from Turkey, Spain, Germany and England. He notes that the Turkish wool is popular among buyers but is expensive, with a pound costing between 1,600 and 3,000 PKR ($10 to $20 USD). By contrast, a pound of local wool can cost between 400 PKR to 600 PKR ($2.50 to $4 USD).
Sajjad says that customers from all walks of life visit his shop and that the ability to cater to all markets has been his selling point all these years.
“Sometimes women show me pictures of wool I don’t have,” Sajjad says. “Which makes me wonder, even after accommodating so many colors and qualities, why do I not have this item?”
Sajjad can source these yarns them from his vendors or get them locally dyed.
Suleiman Sajjad’s father, who started The Wool Shop back in the 1980s.
The popularity of knitting and crocheting has ebbed and flowed in the six decades that The Wool Shop has been around, but these crafts have remained important. And with the introduction of social media, it has made a comeback.
“When women started getting an education and did not have time for household chores, the craft took a back seat,” Sajjad says. “But as times change, people have again started to retake interest in the craft.”
While just a decade ago most of Sajjad’s customers used to be women over the age of 50, he says that now teenagers and women in their 20s or 30s are also taking an interest in the craft.
Sajjad points to travelling as one of the reasons for the comeback.
“My clients have said that their kids who have moved abroad have asked them to restart knitting because they saw how it is still a hobby in the west,” Sajjad says.
Social media and increasing small businesses
Samina Zohair, 56, was visiting her daughter in Australia in 2011 when she was reunited with knitting.
“I got arthritis so I stopped knitting, but my daughter encouraged me and bought new catalogues and equipment for me to begin,” Zohair says.
Once back in Pakistan, she started giving knitted items as gifts, starting her online business, Knittens, in 2017.
“My children asked me to start this professionally and through the word of mouth I started getting orders,” Zohair says.
For Zohair, Knittens is purely a hobby and isn’t how she earns a living.
Various handmade knitwear business accounts have emerged on Pakistan’s social media landscape over the past few years. Some makers work all year round, others only during the colder months.
Another handmade business owner is 26-year-old Bushra Shahid. She started knitting for her fiancé after their engagement in 2015 and has been knitting ever since. She set up her business in 2017 and recently revived it with the help of her mother-in-law.
“I found out that my mother-in-law is amazing at crochet and we had finally decided to bring our talent together and continued my page, Snowool,” she said.
Toys are also a popular handmade product. Rafiya Hasan launched HOP, which stands for Handcrafted On Purpose, to sell her knitted bunnies, in 2019.
“Even though I dabble in other crafts, knitted bunnies became a major feature of my page,” Hasan says. “I knitted the first ones for my grandson and then just kept going. That’s when I thought of creating my own Instagram page.”
Hasan understands that hers is a niche market of people who value handmade products over mass-produced ones.
“They understand that there is no substitute for it and that it is time-consuming,” Hasan says. “At HOP, we embrace things made by hand in small quantities and each piece is unique.”
Suleiman Sajjad works with customers at The Wool Shop.
Social media has not only become a marketplace for entrepreneurs to showcase and sell their talent, but it has also opened new avenues for local vendors.
The Wool Shop started conducting Facebook Lives to sell their items at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic last year. Even though their Facebook page has been up since 2013, they only started to receive orders through it recently.
Sajjad’s first parcel went to Karachi, about a 24-hour drive from Islamabad. A famous actress placed one of his very first orders, and her positive review gave the business a jump start. Today about 15% of The Wool Shop’s revenue is made via social media and word of mouth.
“It has bought extra customers to our shops virtually, people I couldn’t have reached otherwise,” Sajjad says, adding that it has come at a cost. “It requires a lot of time and effort from our end. One has to be available on WhatsApp or the phone all the time and take pictures for customers, listen to their issues and be consistent.”
While the popularity of the craft might have decreased compared to its glory three or four decades ago, it won’t die a sad demise in Pakistan.
Rehman, the author, believes that even though people are into fast fashion, and buying and discarding items has become easier, ancient crafts like knitting are always evolving. She notes that there are pockets of fashion labels, nonprofits and individual start-ups that continue to sustain and evolve the craft.
“Knitting isn’t like other crafts, It is timeless, as it has been around for centuries and has managed to evolve and appeal to so many regions, who have incorporated their spin, essence into it,” Rehman says.
Mary Annarella’s latest release is the perfect ear worm and perfect sweater. Ruby Tuesday is knit from the top-down with a strand of sock yarn and mohair laceweight held together to create an elegant lace design (and no finishing!). Get 30% off through Monday with the code hanganameonyou.
Speaking of songs, Kate of McMullin Fiber Co is celebrating V-day by opening preorders Sunday for her collection of Valentine’s colorways inspired by love ballads and breakup songs.
Join the third installment in the second season of Holly Dyeworks’ Great British Baking Show Yarn Club. Celebrate Pudding Week with a fingering-weight skein of Holly’s MCN yarn and a progress keeper from Little Bitty Delights.
I’ve sent these fun accessories on to their new homes, and after a post office snafu I have tons of extras in the shop! Celebrate Galentine’s Day by giving a little love to your BFFs — best fiber friends.
Debbie of Murky Depths Dyeworks has listed 20 colors of her super soft Triton MCN DK in her shop, from earthy, rich tones to ethereal pinks and grays.
Deb’s latest shawl design is called Arctic Ice, but it will keep you super warm! It’s also 25% off until February 28.
When Terri of AT Haynes House Yarns chose the above photo, of a lightning storm at Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming, for her Knitting Our National Parks installment, I knew there was something familiar about it. Then when she sent me the photos of the yarn and told me the colorway name, I remembered its role in Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Terri’s striking colorway, called I Got One Just Like It In My Living Room (Close Encounters of the Third Kind), is now available to preorder on Indie Untangled through February 19. You can order it on Bare Feet Sock and Community DK for your next close (knit) encounters.
Kate of McMullin Fiber Co is preparing for Valentine’s Day with a shop update full of new colorways and has opened just a few spots in her February Fiber Gallery Club, which will be inspired by the very cupid-day colors of John Singer Sargent’s painting Mrs. Hugh Hammersly.
The Yarnover Truck’s Super Nerdy Yarn Club is once again open to new members until next Friday. This club, which includes yarn from Forbidden Fiber Co., takes inspiration from strong female nerdy characters across a variety of different fandoms. New members can also access previous club colors if they wish.
You will be “constantly cozy” in Debra Gerhard’s latest sweater, which she knit up in Fully Spun’s colorful Postscript Aran yarn. This top-down oversized pullover has gentle waist shaping and Fair Isle patterning adorning the yoke and sleeves.
Dawn of Fairy Tale Yarn Co has mini skein sets with a new twist: tweed! These tweedy DK-weight mini sets come with five minis — one tie-dyed, one speckle-dyed and three tonals — totaling 230 yards to add stripes of color to your next project.
Attention Buffy fans: Jilly & Kiddles has opened sign-ups for her Buffy the Vampire Slayer Mystery Yarn Club. This three-month club includes a skein of fingering weight yarn, a set of custom Buffy/Yarn-themed goodies by DKGraham and some other fun extras. Sign-ups close February 22.
Erika of Liverpool Yarns has put together 100% Shetland wool yarn packs for Sarah Thornton’s Vaunt Shawl, featured in the Winter 2020 issue of Knitty.
Preorders are open for the Fiber Coven Full Moon Club, a witchy knitting kit from Lauren of Valkyrie Fibers and Emily of Kitty With A Cupcake themed to each month’s Full Moon for all of 2021.
Monica of Gothfarm Yarn often uses alpaca fleece to add a pop of color to her natural yarns. Current blends include Arkose, a Cinnamon red alpaca and White Rambouillet Merino wool pictured above.
Amy has a line of Valentine’s trinkets up in her shop! Grab them and add some love to your knitting.
Sandy of A Flame of Color creates designer buttons, closures and beads for fiber artists with copper and enamel.
Superwash and non-Superwash yarns, what’s the difference? After all, aren’t they both wool? In my view as a knitter and a natural dyer, they are related in the way a horse, and the Emerald City’s Horse of a Different Color would be!
To understand, let’s look at the horse first, or in our case the raw wool! Sheep wool is made of natural fibrous proteins from the keratin group. The keratin is what gives yarn its flexibility, elasticity, resilience and memory. Each “hair” has a complex physical structure, and is made up of overlapping minuscule scales. The scales help repel dirt and allow the fibers to felt. In the case of some non-Superwash fibers, felting does not occur, as in down breeds. In their natural state, the fibers are coated with a waxy coat of lanolin which serves as a water repellent. During wool processing, the lanolin is removed.
Now, let’s look at the Horse of a Different Color, the Superwash. The most common treatment used to transform a yarn into “Superwash” is the Chlorine-Hercosett process. To etch the scales we talked about earlier, the fiber is chlorinated with either chlorine gas or a chlorine solution, followed by the application of a plastic resin to coat the fibers. The result is a yarn you can wash in the washing machine that will not felt.
Before I discuss the difference between the two types of yarn from a dyeing and a knitting perspective, I want to point out some of the negative environmental impacts of the Chlorine-Hercosett process. This process is not sustainable, it uses hazardous chemicals, and creates toxic waste. It uses more water and energy than traditionally processed wools, and the yarns, after they are transformed into garments or household products, shed microplastics during washing.
Because of the negative environmental impacts of the traditional Chlorine-Hercosett process, new processes have been developed to improve the washability of wool, and decrease felting. Among them, to name only a few, are the EXP process which does not use chlorine and instead uses natural salts as oxidizing agents, and the Naturetexx Plasma Process which uses air and electricity.
Now that I have said that, and that I am sure you are looking sadly at all the beautiful skeins of Superwash in your stash, you are wondering what to do. My answer is: use them! The resources and energy that were used to produce them have already been expended, and not using them would be a waste.
So how do the horse and the Horse of a Different Color compare? The two skeins below and their samples were knitted from 100% Merino fingering yarn, one non-Superwash, the other Superwash, with both skeins weighing 20g each.
Body in the skein
Non-Superwash top, Superwash bottom.
The difference in body between the two skeins is very apparent in the pictures below. The non-superwash skein which appears first has body, whereas the superwash clearly has not retained its natural structure. The yarn is flatter, and denser.
No-Superwash top, Superwash bottom.
The difference in body translates into the drape. I knitted two identical swatches. The Superwash Merino drapes more than the non-Superwash, but is also more shapeless.
This is where my experience as a hand-dyer comes in. Superwash yarns absorb color more readily than non-Superwash. Non-Superwash yarns appear more subtle, while Superwash yarns are deeply saturated. Even with natural dyes, my dyes of choice, the color difference is striking. Both yarns were identically dyed together using sequoia. In addition, the absorption of color is faster in a Superwash skein than it is in a non-Superwash skein.
The difference in color is only accentuated by the difference in light reflection. A Superwash yarn is smooth with a slight sheen, while a non-Superwash yarn is matte with a soft glow.
Superwash skein left, non-Superwash right.
Superwash yarns lose their elasticity, and memory. The absence of scales, means the fibers and stitches are sitting next to each other but are not interlocked, so they tend to stretch more readily. This would be fine for a shawl, but less attractive for a sweater. The tendency to stretch is visible when the samples are wet.
Superwash left, non-Superwash right.
With an equal number of stitches cast on in these samples, the Superwash swatch is wider and longer than the non-Superwash swatch. The stitches in the non-Superwash swatch are closely connected to each other, while the stitches in the Superwash swatch remain clearly separate, with minute gaps. This will have an impact on the warmth of the knitted garment, with non-Superwash yarn being significantly warmer. The Superwash swatch is flatter. Textured stitches will appear flat in the Superwash Merino, and round and plump in the non-Superwash Merino.
Both are soft, though in a slightly different way. In the case of Merino yarns, Superwash feels sleek and non-Superwash feels pillow-y.
Non-Superwash top, Superwash bottom.
The Superwash yarn will absorb water faster as opposed to the non-Superwash yarn which will repel the water. A non-Superwash garment will allow you to stay warmer even when wet.
As a natural dyer, a knitter and a spinner, I prefer non-Superwash fibers. Each breed-specific fiber has unique properties that make one fiber or another ideal for a particular project. The same way a Superwash Merino is drastically different from a non-Superwash Merino, Merino fiber is drastically different from let’s say Suffolk or Wensleydale. And as I hinted earlier in my post, some fibers felt and some do not. There is a perfect natural fiber for any project! This could be the subject of a whole new post, but for now, I hope you will look at your stash a little differently, and that you will explore the possibilities in using non-Superwash fibers.
Peperomia is a new sweater design from Abbye and Selena of Wool & Pine that is inspired by walks through the beautiful deciduous forests of the Pacific Northwest, where they’re based. The colorwork motif starts at the hem and depicts the leaves that cover the forest trail, breaking apart before returning to the soil. You can preorder Peperomia and receive a digital ”Pattern Prep Pack,” which includes charted and written instructions for the colorwork motif so you can start swatching, and then get the pattern in your inbox when it goes live on February 25.
And then, there’s the yarn… Karen of Miss La Motte has created two color combinations: Celadonite and Blue Spruce, pictured in the stunning photo above, captured at Alouette Lake in Golden Ears Provincial Park in British Columbia, and Spruceforest and Evening Sunglow, a bolder look. Both color combos are available to preorder on Indie Untangled through this Sunday.
Because I had so much fun chatting with Abbye and Selena in October, we’re going to get together again on Sunday, February 28 at noon Eastern, along with Karen, to celebrate the official release of Pepperomia! You can add the session to your shopping cart when purchasing your yarn or register separately here.
Janis and Christen of Queen City Yarn have created a new colorway, Madam Vice President, MVP, inspired by Kamala Harris. They recommend combining it with the rereleased Fair Fight and Stand, two of their charity colorways. $10 from each skein sold of the former colorway is donated to Fair Fight, an organization founded in 2018 by Stacey Abrams to address voter suppression in Georgia and Texas, and $10 from the each skein of Stand sold is donated to Heal Charlotte, a community engagement organization in North Carolina.
Giulia and Stefania of Lanivendole are starting off the new year with a sale. Select bases and colorways, such as A Chic Blend and The Twisty Chic, as well as some kits, are available at a discount starting today at 7 p.m. Central European Time.
Heather of Sew Happy Jane has picked out some color combos for the the quick and cheerful Chain Link Hat and Cowl pattern by Marin Melchior (she used the colors Dusk and Sunday Morning for her project).
Debbie of Murky Depths Dyeworks has updated her shop with a small reserve of Nautilus BFL Aran, a Bluefaced Leicester Superwash that is only spun twice a year and is perfect for winter knits.
Bonnie of Yank Your Yarn is channeling Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders with her new Chain Knitting Row Counter, which features square markers and which you can also wear as a totally tubular bracelet.
Last year, while I was knitting with yarn from Rebecca of the sadly-closed Fuse Fiber Studio, I couldn’t stop smelling it. I had to ask her what wool wash she used, and she revealed that she stored her yarn with these lavender and cedar sachets. I recently went online to replenish my supply and discovered that I could buy them for my shop!
The company adheres to Fair Trade policies to create their products, including these sachets, which are formulated with natural essential oils and packaged in handmade paper. Get at least one of each scent for each of your yarn storage containers!
Victoria and Co. of Eden Cottage Yarn are unveiling their newest Milburn colorway today in their newsletter and on social media. They’re also updating the shop today with Oakworth DK, a Superwash Polwarth yarn.
If you missed out on My Mama Knits’ 2020 Surviving the Storm Advent you can grab one of the re-dye sets, available as 24 skeins, or split into the stormy and rainbow halves of 12 mini skeins each.
Missy of This Craft Or That has a new Color of the Month Club! Each club-exclusive color is themed around holidays. Packages include a skein of yarn on a choice of two different bases, a small gift and pattern suggestions.
Lisa The Knitting Artist has updated her shop with series of three new colors inspired by her “Tidepool” paintings. There are also a limited number of skeins of her Landscape Near Ampurdan colorway from the Salvador Dali yarn club.