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August 31, 2021

Zwhat’s up with Zwartbles?

  • A twisted hank of black yarn with red undertones.

Our yarn Ultisol has a very special ingredient. It went on a long journey across the pond to arrive stateside, with 50 pounds of it showing up in two very large bags at my doorstep.

That ingredient is Zwartbles sheep wool.

Zwartbles sheep are a European breed. They are not raised in North America, where Gothfarm Yarn is based. The wool in our yarn was imported from a supplier in the Netherlands. The name Zwartbles is Dutch for “black with a blaze” – which is a nice, concise description of the sheep breed.

The name is pronounced “Z-vart-bles.” A Dutch woman was kind enough to politely correct me when I was calling it “Z-wart-bulls.” I have a friend who just calls it the “Z sheep” to be on the safe side!

Zwartbles wool is naturally black, but the sun easily bleaches the tips. This gives the black wool a red undertone, with overall color coming pretty close to dark chocolate. In our yarn Ultisol, we blend the Zwartbles wool with fiber from Cinnamon Red Huacaya alpaca. The result is a dynamic dark brown yarn with auburn highlights. The yarn is named after a rich red soil type.

Ultisol has a medium-soft, springy feel, making it great for all sorts of outerwear. (Check out the Bearclaw beanie – a pattern designed especially with Ultisol in mind – in picture five.)

The yarn is 2-ply and worsted weight, and due to differences in the staple length in the sheep wool and alpaca fleece, has a more rustic appearance. It can pass for handspun even though it is 100% mill spun. And if you’re into handspinning, make sure to check out our Ultisol roving. It’s the same fiber, just unspun.

Zwartbles wool is not very common in commercial yarn. The reason for that includes color, availability, and the market dominance of Merino. We love being able to highlight – and enhance – wool from a distinct, international sheep breed.

There’s a whole wide world of fiber out there. Our yarns offer a way to explore it.