My favorite finds at EYF 2019: Beyond Merino

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A collection of yarn, pompoms and buttons surrounds a poster for the Edinburgh Yarn Festival.

If the last two years at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival (and fiber events in general) were all about the speckle, then 2019 was the year of embracing sheep-y goodness in all its many varieties. The vendors at EYF have long promoted British wool, but this year it seemed like there was so much fiber content beyond Superwash Merino, even among the indie dyers who tend to gravitate towards that tried and true base.

My finds at EYF 2019 bore out that trend — in fact, I’m proud to say that there is no Superwash Merino in my haul!

Here are some of my favorite finds from this year’s EYF.

A table displayed with colorful yarn from La Bien Aimee.

One of the first things I had to check out was La Bien Aimée’s new base, Mondim. This yarn is collaboration between Aimee and Rosa Pomar, the owner of Retrosaria Rosa Pomar in Lisbon, Portugal. Rosa has created yarn bases comprised of wool from Portuguese sheep and they take more than two dozen of Aimee’s colors beautifully.

Jars of pink-hued buttons.

There were already a few sweater samples knit up, including Andrea Mowry’s LYS (which stands for Little Yellow Sweater) and Isabell Kraemer’s Eula, with her sample using buttons from ultra-tempting EYF vendor Textile Garden.

A skein of light aqua yarn.

I was also excited to see London-based dyer Ocean of Ocean By the Sea, whose botanically-dyed yarn was available in a special pop-up in Ysolda’s space at the festival. There were so many tempting soothing colorways and bases, including this skein of Falkland wool in the appropriately-named Beachcomber colorway.

A pile of brown-gray yarn.

No EYF would be complete without yarn from one of Scotland’s many islands. Uist Wool is a mill that has been based in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland since 2013. I was particularly attracted to their Canach cottongrass blend, spun from Scottish Merino, a cross breed of Shetland and Saxon Merino sheep. The flecks of white in the dark gray yarn I ended up buying makes for a beautiful natural speckle.

A wall of colorful yarn.

A cream colored sweater with gray and gold colorwork.

Kettle Yarn Co.‘s colorful display of Northiam DK British Bluefaced Leicester, which is spun and dyed at a British mill, also caught my eye, as did her sample of Caitlin Hunter’s Tecumseh.

A display of yarn and patterns.

Martin’s Lab (who I’m excited to have as part of this year’s Indie Untangled yarn club) debuted a new base called Aubrey Sport, a blend of BFL and silk. It was used in the Homecoming Collection of mitts to sweaters by 10 designers.

A flared pink sweater with a cream colored yoke.

Speaking of patterns, a couple of my favorites from the show did actually use Merino: I loved Fiona Alice’s grown-up version of her Mabel baby cardigan. This sweater, called Mabel’s Sister, uses Viola DK and was available in kits at the stand for Loop London.

A pink shawl with a green stripe.

I also loved glimpsing Casapinka’s latest designs in the wild, including this new multicolored shawl, Botanique, in collaboration with Walk Collection.

What to make with handspun yarn

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I’ve been contemplating a What to make with handspun blog post for a while now, but since I haven’t quite fallen down the spinning rabbit hole yet, I decided to ask Anne of Middle Brook Fiberworks, my fiber and spinning guru, for some suggestions. She ended up sending me a terrific write-up to share with you. Please include your additional suggestions in the comments!

“What can I make with this handspun yarn?” is a question I answer at every show. I can see why: skeins are usually one-of-a-kind, with not a lot of yardage and the texture is often irregular. It’s certainly possible to find sweater quantities of beautifully consistent handspun yarn, but it would be a significant investment. Shawls and other accessories that require less than 400 yards are great for handspun because any irregularities won’t matter — unlike in a sweater or socks, where you don’t really want unfortunately placed lumps of thick slubs. Plus, woolen-spun handspun yarn (spun with a low twist from loose clouds of hand-prepped fiber, rather than a compacted commercial combed top), knits up into a thick fabric that is not only exceptionally warm, but is remarkably lightweight and lofty. My handspun hat knit from woolen-spun CVM under my rain jacket hoodie is integral for my winter farm chores!

Another option is to combine millspun yarn with smaller amounts of handspun yarn as a highlight–for a pop of texture. The Dragonwell Cowl, pictured above, which I designed with Jolene Mosely, has a section of consistent 2-ply yarn, and a small section of highly textured art yarn in a coordinating color. I’ve used handspun yarn for both sections, but millspun yarn would work just as well.

One of my favorite handspun projects is my Handspun Hansel, a handspun version of Gudrun Johnston’s Hansel. The pattern calls for 550 yards of a main color, and less than 100 yards each of four contrasting colors. I made mine with all handspun, but I think it would be terrific with a millspun main color, with handspun contrasting colors.

My next project is going to be Laura Aylor’s Between Oceans. I’ve spun four skeins of aran-weight organic Polwarth in Cirrus for the body, but because I won’t be spinning a fifth skein only to be cut into fringe, I’ll be dyeing a skein of millspun Targhee wool to match.