What to stash this week: inspired yarn

Pink, orange and orange and green yarn.

Kate of McMullin Fiber Co is taking us along on a trip out west and allowing us to pack our bags full of beautiful yarn. Today she debuts her Canyon Collection, a line of 12 coordinating colorways inspired by the beauty of the mountainous West.

A pink, red, orange and gray shawl.

Guilia and Stefania of Lanivendole have teamed up with designer Justyna Lorkowska of Letesknits on the Nappe Shawl. There are kits available in four different color combinations of A Chic Blend and A Heavenly Blend. Act fast — preorders close on Monday, April 12.

A knight holding wooden knitting needles with a skein of yarn on her head.

Join Mary, Queen of the Knitters, for a Mystery Knit-a-Long quest for the grail! Her Knights Who Say Knit shawl pattern is available for preorders and is discounted through April 15th. The first clue will be released April 19.

Gold, cream and lilac yarn.

Stevie of Curated Yarn Co. runs her luxe hand-dyed yarn company near Brighton on the Sussex Coast of England. Her colorways are designed to evoke nostalgia and joy and she offers yarn, clubs, mini sets, Curated X Creatives Boxes and a range of bases.

Purple, blue, pink and green round stitch markers.

Bonnie of Yank Your Yarn has a new set of colorful stitch markers that can attach to magnets, so you can keep your collection organized (and hopefully out of your sofa cushions).

A hand holds blue and white plastic butterflies wrapped in purple yarn.

April showers bring… Friendly Flutterby end minders, which help tame your loose ends, and Raindrop Stitch Markers from Michelle of Crafty Flutterby Creations.

A rainbow of mini skeins.

Megan of Megs & Co has a few mini skein sets available, including the Hope & A Future set for use with Isabella Tonski of Fiber & Fox’s crochet shawl of the same name, and Home is Where the Heart is, an ode to Megan’s home city of Rochester, NY.

7th Floor Yarn is now offering their third annual 12 Days of Christmas in July Advent kit. The Hawaiian Christmas-themed kit includes 12 individually-wrapped skeins of DK yarn and notions, plus a knit or crochet pattern.

The Stardust Fiber Studio April subscription box is a collaboration with Mother of Purl. Boxes come with two skeins of Emerald’s Andromeda base and an exclusive stitch marker.

Aimee of Panckae and Lulu has opened up preorders for her 2021 Advent calendar and the April Pink Moon skein for her 2021 Full Moon Surprise special yarn series.

Mint green bulky yarn.

If you want to get some quick projects in, Kate of Bad Lux Designs has a new 2ply bulky-weight base, made of 100% fine Superwash wool sourced from Peru.

The Green Sweater: Knitting the history of the Holocaust

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A worn child's green cardigan.

Editor’s note: Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day, known in Hebrew as Yom Hashoah. I asked Lea Stern, a knitter and longtime Indie Untangled follower, to write about her Green Sweater project to memorialize the Holocaust.

In 2003, I was invited by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to attend a preview of a new exhibit called The Hidden Children. As the name suggests, it was about those children who were hidden or removed from parts of Europe during World War II and the Holocaust. They were given up by parents who were desperate to preserve the lives of their children and too often, these were the only members of a family to survive. I attended this event with a friend and colleague of mine who had himself been a hidden child in Holland. There were many stories in this exhibit of fear and tragedy, but there were also stories of supreme sacrifice and bravery.

What caught my eye at the museum preview was a small green sweater knitted for a young girl by her paternal grandmother. The girl was Krystyna Chiger and she had lived in Lvov, Poland. Her family had a comfortable life there, with a large apartment and a busy and popular textile shop, across the street from another fabric and wool shop owned by her maternal grandparents. Krystyna was a bright and inquisitive child who, as she tells it, would do mischievous things. She would unravel the little green sweater that her grandmother was knitting for her when she set it down and went out. She would ultimately receive a scolding but she would persist in her tricks nonetheless.

An old black and white photo of a family of four.

When the war broke out, Lvov was occupied by the Russians under an agreement with the Germans. When the Germans reneged on this agreement and invaded this part of Poland, things went from bad to worse for the Chiger family and the Jewish community. They were forced to give up their home, business and nearly all their possessions and were moved into the Jewish ghetto. It was from a window there in their small living space that Krystyna saw her grandmother who had knitted her sweater being taken away on a cart to Janowska concentration camp where she perished.

After several years, on May 1943, the final liquidation of the ghetto began. All its inhabitants were to be transported to the Janowska camp and what would have been their certain death. Krystyna’s father, and several others, in anticipation of this event had already begun to prepare a place for them to hide in the sewers below Lvov. And so on that night, Krystyna, along with her mother, father and 3-year-old brother descended into the sewers. They were not able to take much with them, but Krystyna took her beloved little green sweater with her. What they all thought would be a short sojourn in the sewers turned out to be 14 months. While many who sought refuge there died, the Chigers, helped by three Catholic Polish sewer workers led by Leopold Socha, survived and — so did her sweater. After some time in Poland, she went to Israel where she became a dentist, married and had two sons. She is now Dr. Kristine Keren and she and her husband live on Long Island, New York.

While her sweater is nearly 75 years old and bears some stains and holes, it is remarkably well preserved considering its age and journey.

A green sweater hanging in a display.

Reengineering history

When I saw the sweater I felt that I had a duty to try to reengineer a pattern for it so its history would remain alive. After a bit of convincing, I was able to set up a time to come and directly examine the sweater with the museum exhibit curator, Suzy Snyder, and Cynthia Hughes, head of textiles. I determined gauge and took many measurements, notes, drawings and photos that would assist me in figuring out the stitch pattern. It was a simple knit and purl pattern and I spent many hours searching for it in every available stitch collection I knew of. I was unable to find a previously published form of the pattern in any collection. I thus assumed that it was something that Krystyna’s grandmother had made up or was a popular pattern commonly known but not written. Fortunately, I was able to reproduce it on my own after having been able to examine the sweater closely.

After many hours of test knitting swatches, I needed to choose a yarn for the project. I thought this would be quite easy as I know some very talented hand dyers. After some thought, I realized that while they may be able to more accurately reproduce the color as it is now, specifically hand-dyed yarn may be difficult for knitters to obtain.

A hand points to a diagram surrounded by items spread out on a table.

Since the sweater was knitted around 1939-1940 in Poland, I knew from my studies of historical knitting that we would need a very basic wool. A luxury yarn would not have been readily available in wartime, nor would it have been used for a child’s sweater. Considering the horrific environmental conditions it had been subjected to, wool was the obvious choice.

I chose Quince & Co. Finch, a fingering-weight 100% wool that had great stitch definition and the largest palette of greens. The original sweater is faded and stained, but many of Quince & Co. greens were quite close. Additionally, if one wanted to knit this sweater in something other than green, their broad color palette was excellent.

A woman sits next to a table filled with small green sweaters.

Dr. Kristine Keren with the test-knitted sweaters.

Once the sweater pattern was created, I had two sets of test knitters. One used the first draft to evaluate the pattern for errors, understanding of directions and readability. The second set of knitters used the final pattern to make sure there were no errors before publication. I donated the copyright for the pattern to the Holocaust museum where it is currently for sale in the museum bookstore as a hard copy along with a display of Krystyna’s book, The Girl In the Green Sweater, and one of the test-knitted sweaters. Since the museum does not have an online store, they have allowed me to sell copies of the sweater on Ravelry. All proceeds from the sale of the pattern are donated to the museum.

In December of 2014 I traveled to New York to meet Dr. Keren and tell her the story of recreating her sweater. Her husband, Mr. Marion Keren, is a mechanical and civil engineer and enjoyed the process of “reverse engineering” a sweater! He is also a Holocaust survivor and they were very open and kind in inviting me into their home. I brought her a timeline of my whole journey. I showed her my notes, early photos, drafts and swatches. I presented her with a finished copy of the pattern and let her choose one of the test-knitted sweaters that reminded her most closely of her original. The curator had told me that it had been difficult for her to give up her sweater but she had graciously donated it to the museum. When she chose one of the copies, she held it up and said, “Now I have my sweater back!” It was a very emotional and fulfilling moment.

A woman holds up a green sweater decorated with award ribbons.

Lea displaying the ribbons her Green Sweater earned at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival.

With this project largely completed, I have reflected on what this project has meant to me. This sweater represents triumph over prejudice and intolerance. It is a grandmother’s love for her granddaughter and the devotion the granddaughter felt in return. I am a physician and have been fortunate to have lived a wonderful life in the United States, mostly protected against the type of injustice that has too often pervaded the world. I had a brilliant mother raised in northern England  who taught me many types of needlework, but particularly knitting. I am fortunate to have been able to use these skills to do this project.

My hope is that this small green sweater will be knit again and again. I hope the story of Krystyna Chiger, her family and the brave men who helped them will be told over and over and as such the sweater will be a small piece of living history. The green sweater should be a reminder to generation after generation of what happens when intolerance is allowed to fester unchecked and as young people wear it, we can open a discussion about what it represents and why it is so important to never forget. Suzy Snyder commented in a television interview she and I did about this project that the survivors won’t always be with us, but the things they’ve left with us will continue to tell their story. My hope is that small things like this sweater will somehow make a difference.

What to stash this week for your spring travels

A marshy area under a pink sunset, with pink, green and gold speckled yarn. Edit alt text

For the latest installment of Knitting Our National Parks, Kristin of KraeO, who has a background in painting, is bringing us along to Patuxent Research Refuge in Maryland, which is about a 40-minute drive from both Baltimore and Washington, DC. I can so appreciate this space that allows both wildlife and people to recharge, and photographer Ian Shive captured the kind of stunning sunset that would make any spot look magical.

Kristin’s Setting Sun colorway is available to preorder on Indie Untangled through Friday, April 16. She’s dyed it on two bases — Little Sister Fingering, a Superwash Merino single-ply fingering and Mama Bear DK, a luxurious blend of 45% baby alpaca, 45% Merino and 10% silk. The yarn will ship at the end of May. As always, 10% of sales will be donated to the National Park Foundation to help support these beautiful public lands.

Beaver charms with silver ring attachments with a green background.

Speaking of wildlife and springtime adventures, Jillian of WeeOnes is highlighting a few wild animal-inspired stitch markers. Her shop has a ton of creatures, including these cutie beavers, as well as robins and sea turtles. And this month’s surprise stitch marker theme is “babies,” so maybe… baby animals?!

Clear stitch markers with paper airplanes.

If your inner wanderlust is taking you a little further afield, bring these adorable stitch markers from Katy and the Katrinkles team along on your journey. There are only a dozen sets left in the shop!

A grey felt backpack with a black yarn ball.

If you don’t pack light (um, what yarn enthusiast does?) then you might need this bag that I’ve called The Woolpack. It was handcrafted by Rhinebeck-based maker Julia Hilrbrandt and features ample room for your projects and essentials, an inner and outer pocket and a screen-printed yarn ball surrounded by colorful felted dots. There are only a couple left in the world, so if you’re eyeing them, act fast.

What to stash this week as you’re dreaming of spring

A woman holds out a purple and blue geometric wrap behind her.

Stephanie, the dyer at SpaceCadet, has hit a new design home run with her new Striad Wrap, a series of short row triangles, knit individually in strips and joined together without any seaming up.

Black yarn with pops of green, blue and purple.

Nikki of Laneras Yarn Company has a new fingering-weight base made with 100% Uruguayan Polwarth. Like all Laneras yarns, it is custom spun using wool that is ethically sourced and sustainably produced in Uruguay.

A single skein of orange and green yarn.

Eve of Holly Dyeworks has fresh new colorways for spring, and kits for Stone Knits’ Alice’s Easter Bunny Socks.

Skeins of pink, gray, blue and purple yarn.

Aimee of Pancake and Lulu just had a shop update with few new Spring 2021 colorways and she has a few yarn kits for the upcoming MKAL by Ambah O’Brien.

Skeins of organge, green, gray and brown yarn.

IU newcomer Telling Yarns offers non-Superwash and Superwash all-British yarns sourced from British mills, in Devon and Yorkshire.

Gold llama charms on cardboard backings.

Missy of This Craft Or That has restocked some customer favorite progress keepers, which can also be used as zipper pulls.

A pink bag with gold flowers.

Maria G Knits, based in Portugal, creates project bags with crafters in mind.

A photo collage with various stitch markers.

Join Michele of MAB Elements this Sunday at 2:30 p.m. EDT on Facebook Live to see new designs.

Ivory buttons scattered over blue fabric.

Monica of Gothfarm Yarn now offers vegetable ivory buttons that serve as a sustainable alternative to plastic.

Sharon of Garage Dyeworks has introduced a new yarn club.

Indie Across the Pond Untangling: Garthenor Organic

A label with teal print.

This is the third in a series of blog posts featuring the fabulous sponsors of Indie Across the Pond, taking place from March 19-21, 2021.

I featured Garthenor Organic on the blog last year prior to Indie Untangled Everywhere in October. I’m excited that this British yarn company has decided to return for our first international fiber event! I spoke with Jonny King to learn even more about his and his mom Sally’s commitment to organic, British wool.

What did the process of organic certification entail?

It’s quite a lengthy process! For an organic farm like ours, there is a minimum of two years of transition, which lets the livestock and land adapt gradually to a new way of farming. For the yarn production, it’s usually a little quicker, thankfully. There are a few key areas that come under the scope of a GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standards) certification, namely chemical inputs (like dyes and detergents), traceability, working conditions and environmental standards. For each of these, we need to be able to show complete transparency during our annual inspection and occasional unannounced spot inspections, so it’s pretty in-depth. I definitely don’t think we’d be able to keep it up if we didn’t truly believe in the process.

Yarn being milled.

How has your company evolved over 20-plus years?

This is an odd one for me, as I’ve grown up alongside the company – Mum (Sally) often jokes that she brought me up to join in with making yarn! We started with spinning yarn from wool only from our own flock, but we’re now working with 50-60 organic farms around the UK to grow this amazing fibre. As you can imagine, this also means a lot more yarn being made too! We’re still a tiny company though, with just the two of us working full time, and I think that means we can keep that raw connection to the way our yarns are made – without any compromise at all.

A black and white image of a man holding a dark lamb.

A woman leaning on a cane wearing a dark coat and knitted hat.

Are you still facing challenges due to the pandemic? What about Brexit?

Definitely! I think like just about every industry, we’ve had a few setbacks over the last year or so. Not having in-person shows has been so heartbreaking, as this is really where we get to connect with friends and customers, and we really get to tell the story of the fibre. We work with a few small mills here in the UK, and they’ve all faced closures and reduced staffing, so it’s been trickier than ever to keep up with demand!

Shipping has been a challenge, but I’m glad to say this is looking a little more stable now – we’re dispatching orders every day all across the world, and the postal services are doing an amazing job to get all the yarny parcels delivered as quickly as possible.

A sheepdog among a pile of brown and white fleece.

Tell me more about the rare breed that you debuted at Indie Untangled Everywhere last year?

One of our favourite things when introducing a new or single-release yarn is to introduce makers to a fibre they may have never discovered before. For Indie Untangled Everywhere, it was a blend of Manx Loaghtan and Hampshire Down, two gorgeous British breeds, woollen spun into a super soft and squishy yarn. Partnering this one was the pure Manx Loaghtan, and a marl of the two shades (we always love a good marl here!). The flock that grows the Manx Loaghtan fleece was one of our first supplier farms, and it’s that genuine connection the story of the fibre that makes us so proud to do what we do.

Like all our fibre, it was hand sorted by Sally – her experience and knowledge in working with fibre for years is really what sets each yarn apart. She has a knack to understanding how the fibre will be behave, and it guides us to make wool that reflects the landscape, the sheep and the story that surrounds us every day.

A skein of cream-colored yarn that says Dartmoor.

What new products will you be showing at Indie Across the Pond?

We’re going to be re-introducing a special edition version of our newest base, Snowdonia Sock. Spun from pure rare-breed Greyface Dartmoor wool, the texture is so unique and special, and captures what I mentioned about reflecting our landscape. We worked with a farm in Cornwall to source the fibre, and it was spun just a few miles down the road from where it grew. We only spun a very small batch, so it’s definitely not one to miss!

What to stash this week, across the pond and everywhere

A collage of colorful yarn and products.

Our Indie Across the Pond virtual event kicks off tomorrow and the collection of show specials from our vendors based in Europe and the UK is especially tempting — and the best part is you don’t have to worry about fitting your haul in luggage that you severely underestimated the size of!

A florescent yarn fade with mini skeins and a stockinette swatch.

Here’s a closeup of Botanical Yarn’s exclusive Across the Pond fade set! Dyer Sophie, a self-professed crazy plant lady based in York, UK, has created this aqua to lilac set that comes with 10 mini skeins, perfect for a variety of projects, including shawls, hats, garments, or a blanket.

If you’re registered for Indie Across the Pond, you can join Sophie at 10 a.m. EDT/3 p.m. CET Friday through Sunday for her Zoom livestreams or book a private appointment with her to talk project plans. Plus, you’ll also get a coupon code for 10% off purchases over £75.

Blue, pink, gray, brown and black stone-like stitch markers.

Ashleigh has stitch markers, progress keepers and more jewelry live in her shop.

Pink, blue and yellow marshmallow Peeps charms, with a chocolate bunny in a basket.

Fill your Easter basket with these new stitch markers from Jillian of WeeOnes that look good enough to eat.

Blue, green and orange hand-dyed yarn.

Sarah of Teton Yarn Company, who dyes yarn that celebrates the Grand Tetons, has created a new spring collection of colors.

A purple, pink and yellow floral tote bag.

Crista Jaeckel is having a spring shop update on March 27 at 8 p.m. EDT with mostly large drawstring bags in spring colors.

Bonnie of Yank Your Yarn’s “The Cat’s in the Cradle Again” Chain Row Counter is back in stock in her Etsy shop.

What to stash this week: dreaming of spring

Gray, yellow, blue and red yarn.

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.

A smiling white woman holds up a black, white and pink speckled shawl.

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.

Blue yarn and the words Stardust Yarn Club March Box Lilo and Stitch.

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.

Purple, pink and gold skeins of yarn.

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.

A black and gold Art Deco-inspired cowl.

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.

A silver Celtic knit and ring stitch markers with green beads.

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.

What to stash this week: staying cozy

A woman in a draped blue, gray and gold striped sweater.

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.

An illustration of a masked alpaca and squirrel with question marks and the words Trivia Night.

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!

Green, gray and gold clay dinosaurs.

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.

Skeins of yarn in a rainbow of colors.

March comes in with a sale! Everything on the Liverpool Yarns site — 100% Shetland fingering yarns, kits for shawls and accessories, patterns and project bags — is 20% off through March 14.

A hand holds white plastic dogs wrapped in light blue yarn.

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.

Swatches of knitting in various colors and the words Greek Gods (Part Two) Signature Collection Live Now stardustfiberstudio.com.

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.

Purple and pink yarn.

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.

A ball of brown wool fiber.

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. 

A Celtic knot stitch marker and the words Erin Go Where Now? Big Clippy! Progress Keeper, Yank Your Yarn.

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.

‘Please, draw me a sheep’: The history of the Hog Island sheep

Three white sheep with black faces in the snow.

Photo courtesy of Holly Hill Ranch

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.

Two sheep in the snow.

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.

A black and white lamb in tall grass.

Photo courtesy of Holly Hill Ranch

What about the fiber they produce? To quote Holly Callahan of the Baltimore Wool Company, “The wool is like the sheep, relaxed and friendly!” To examine the unique qualities of the Hog Island fiber, I purchased some raw fleece, and some roving from Holly Hill Ranch.

White, beige and brown fleece.

Raw fleece from Holly Hill Ranch

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.

White, beige and brown fleece.

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!

A hand holding a ball of white 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 green square of knitting.

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!

A view of white handknit socks from above.

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.

A white sheep with a black face.

Photo courtesy of Holly Hill Ranch


More resources:

Hog Island Part 1: A Feral Breed, a blog post from Knitting the Stash!
The history of the Hog Island sheep from Quietude Farm

What to stash this week: Your aura is yarn

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Skeins of white, blue, purple, pink, orange, yellow and navy yarn.

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).

An illustration showing various animals in purple, navy and teal knitting, crocheting, spinning and enjoying yarn while connecting through various devices.

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.

A white porcelain cup with a lime wedge and the words Cocktail To Go.

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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.

Purple houndstooth fingerless mitts.

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.

A woman drapes a rainbow and gray wrap with tassels around her head.

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.

A skein of yellow and green yarn next to a printed knitting pattern.

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.

A purple knitting project on a red cord with white stoppers at the ends.

Stephanie did a lot of research when deciding which interchangeable needles to offer in her shop, and ended up turning into a chart that compares 14 different brands.

Three and four-sided stone-like pins with curved edges in yellow and green on black backings that read MAB Elements, HANDMADE IN OHIO.

Add a dash of green to your St. Patrick’s Day outfit with MAB Elements’ new Wearing of the Green magnetic shawl pins and Aventurine earrings.

A skein of teal yarn on a green, yellow, orange and pink abstract painting.

Lisa The Knitting Artist has new one-of-a-kind skeins in her shop, dyed solely from the runoff of her oil painting-inspired variegated yarns.