I Thought I Knew How

A podcast about knitting
and life and all sorts

A podcast about knitting
and life and all sorts

Breed-specific Yarn is a Boon to Fiber Artists: Knowledge is Power

In the last episode of the podcast, I talked about The Knitter’s Book of Wool: The Ultimate Guide to Understanding, Using, and Loving this Most Fabulous Fiber, by Clara Parkes, and I mentioned that I was on the hunt for breed-specific yarns.

A Happy Find

A few days later, I was at Webs with time to poke around the shelves and see what grabbed me. Webs has a beautiful front-of-store. But my favorite area is the warehouse in the back because of all the close-outs and sale yarns. I’m not going to lie; I love a deal.

On this particular trip, I noticed some hanks of wool in a dusky shade of purple and stopped to touch. The Dovestone DK by Baa Ram Ewe has a looser spin than many commercial yarns and a slight halo. It was soft to the touch, and the hank had a good amount of flex to it. I knew from reading The Knitter’s Book of Wool that it was a good candidate for a drapey, cozy cowl.

And if anything is true about me, it is that I love cowls.

A Yarn Company with the Consumer in Mind

I took a look at the label to check the fiber content; because of the halo, I wondered if mohair was involved. (Mohair and I do not always get along well.) Imagine my glee when I saw that Baa Ram Ewe delineates their yarns’ fiber content by breed! Breed-specific yarn labeling is a treasure trove of information for the knitter, if you know where to look to learn the specific characteristics of the breed.

Dovestone DK spins up with 50% Bluefaced Leicester, 25% Wensleydale Longwool, and 25% Masham. Knowing the breeds, I was able to open Kindle and understand how the yarn might behave by referencing The Knitter’s Book of Wool.

Your Smartphone is Your Best Ally. Use it.

I learned that as longwools, the Bluefaced Leicester and Wensleydale would lend “incredible strength” and create “a fluid, well-draping fabric.” The Bluefaced Leicester can be used “for just about anything… [including] beautifully draping lace shawls,” and the Wensleydale was partially responsible for the lovely luster of the yarn. The book mentioned that Leicester is safe for projects worn against the skin, but that Wensleydale is best for outerwear. That was concerning. But, when I rested the hank against the front of my neck for a moment, I could feel that the Leicester’s against-the-skin wearability was the prominent characteristic of the blend.

The book didn’t cover the fiber from the Masham breed, so I turned to Google. Between a few websites, I learned that the Masham fiber also contributed to the luster of the yarn and that the looser spin of the yarn was likely to keep it from feeling coarse.

Putting the Knowledge to the Test

I’ve made a start on the project I decided on for this yarn–Sencilla by Shireen X. Nadir for The Blue Brick, and the yarn is working just as I believed it would. The fabric has a drapey fluidity to it with only a slight prickle against my neck. After the initial touch, it feels soft and fluffy.

The breed-specific yarn label on baa ram ewe’s Dovestone DK allowed me to make an informed decision for my project with the help of The Knitter’s Book of Wool and my smartphone.

As time passes, knitters will have access to more and more patterns. The chances that the recommended yarn will have been discontinued only increases with time. When knitters understand the qualities of the original wool used, they can make informed decisions about a replacement. There are definitely benefits to being an educated consumer.

There is no such thing as a bad fiber, just bad applications. I understand that, currently, some manufacturers aren’t aware of the exact breed content of the wool they spin. But, we live in a time when we can trace romaine lettuce back to a specific farm. Is it not time to apply some of the same technology to wool production? Knitters can save time, effort, and money by using the resources available to us to make sure we buy the right yarn, if manufacturers pass that information along. Baa Ram Ewe is doing their part. Between their clear labeling and the information in The Knitter’s Book of Wool, I was able to make an informed decision. I would love to see more yarn manufacturers make breed-specific yarn labeling a habit. In the meantime, I’m going to be seeking out more spinneries that do.

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Anne Frost

knitter & podcaster

The host of the I Thought I Knew How Podcast and Online International Fiber Festival.

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