Back to the wool

There's lots happening behind the scenes here. I've promised another post on wool for a while now, and here it is: it gives me a chance to offer a peek of some of the activities I've been too busy DOING to write about.

We're still working away on The Project, including the book that will be published next year by Storey Publishing. Carol Ekarius and I still have a few hundred captions to write, although we need to wait for the fully laid-out pages so we'll know how long the captions can be. We've seen what may be the real cover for the book, although I can't share that here until it goes through a couple more approval steps (it's been through most of them). Estimated publication date is early May 2011. I'm sure hoping it will be ready before the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival! Just because.

When I was in Cleveland to record my segments for the next season (series 600) of Knitting Daily TV, I had to think of a couple of very succinct messages to convey about wools within that format. One of the ideas that I usually take for granted, but that was perfect for a short video introduction to wool, concerns the incredible variety of fibers that are all wool. . . . Although I displayed intermediate types as well within the 5.5-minute segment, I was, and always am, struck by the wide fiber span covered by sheep's fleeces.

For example, here are locks of Rough Fell (guess which one it is) and Delaine Merino:


As usual, the mark on the background is 4 inches (10cm) long.

Length, crimp patterns, texture, qualities . . . all so very different. Husbandry requirements also differ, as do the environments in which the sheep thrive. Blows my mind every time I think about the end points on the spectrum of possibilities (pretty decently represented by these two breeds) . . . and about all the types that come in between. (Yeah, the Merino is on the top. . . .)

In my spare time (that's a joke), I'm preparing additional materials for future teaching . . . and as of a conversation that began in the middle of last week and has since progressed, it looks like I'm going to be doing a DVD for Interweave on wools in the near future. So I need to be collecting and making demo materials for that as well.

Right now I'm knitting swatches with commercially spun breed-specific yarns, including the leftovers from some of the wonderful yarns that Sue Blacker (of Blacker Designs) donated for the workshops I taught at UK Knit Camp and, coming up in the queue, samples of some of the delightful yarns being offered by Solitude Wool.


(The new pup does not seem to mind at all having the top of her crate serve as a drying rack. For many of these demo pieces, I have multiple ends-of-balls that I'm splicing for the swatches. I love making use of every bit of this yarn.)

While I was preparing samples for the book part of The Project, I spun extra yarn for some of the breeds, with the intention of making similar swatches from handspun. That "extra" yarn mostly got used, one way or another, in the photo process for the book. I'll need to spin more before I can do those swatches. Time to do the spinning has not yet appeared. It will be time soon to invoke the schedule-bashing crowbar. However, I have to clear a few other items from my to-do list first. . . .

Because I'm not exclusively a knitter, I hope to make some swatches in other techniques, but at the moment pressing deadlines mean I need to stick to knitting. . . .

Anybody know where I can get an extra 16 useable hours in each day? I know exactly what I'd do with them. About four times over.


The swatches above all demonstrate natural-colored, breed-specific yarns from Blacker Designs. Availability of breed-specific yarns (and spinning fibers) depends on current supplies; wool is a seasonal, natural product that cannot be manufactured on demand to arbitrary specifications (and isn't that fine, when you think about it?). Dyed colors are also available, although because my focus is on fiber qualities I'm sticking to natural colors for this set of swatches.

Top, left to right: light-colored Gotland; Ryeland; Hebridean.

Bottom, left to right: Black Welsh Mountain (sorry it's so hard to see the texture pattern in the photo—it's simple, because of the dark yarn, but it's there); Galway (with Irish-inspired patterns for the only currently available and recognized breed of Irish origin); Border Leicester.


4 thoughts on “Back to the wool”

  1. I’m really excited for you in terms of all the new teaching/dvd opportunities this wool project may inspire. That is great news!

    Love the swatches, too, makes me want to reach through the monitor to touch them…

    About the time thing, I have discovered recently that time seems to be very flexible when it has to be. I mean, I got an insane amount done over the summer. Right now? Not so much. I still don’t quite know where the days are going…but it’s nice to know I could pack them full of activities when I had to. Good luck on stretching out the days!

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