3Ls, 3Cs, and a Cormo sweater

Last weekend I was at The Spinning Loft in Michigan teaching a two-day workshop called 3Ls and 3Cs. With such a cryptic title (although yes, there was a description of the class), I was delighted to find a room filled to capacity with wonderful folks. We couldn't have fit in one more. Fortunately, everybody had a comfortable spot to work (once we fiddled with the positioning of a table and a couple of wheels).

This is half the room before we got started on messing it up:


And this is looking in the other direction:


I didn't get a picture of what the space looked like two days later. It was impressive.

The top photo shows a pretty good view of one of the THREE walls of wool Beth Smith has displayed for sale in the shop. She's in the process of reorganizing her business so she can do more teaching and writing, which means she's closing the retail location, focusing her sales on wool and some selected equipment, and moving the collection of fleeces to a workspace at her home. The website will be the way to find her and her treasure trove.

This was a new workshop for me. It could have been two one-day workshops, instead of a two-day, although the material became a whole lot richer because I could relate the two experiences to each other. When Beth and I decided that I'd do another class for her, we both thought, "Let's do something different." We came up with the concept and the description, both of which remained true throughout the preparation and teaching phases. Yet between the two, when I was researching the material I would present, I made so many new discoveries about sheep and wool and the history and practice of using these resources that it was like I'd unintentionally opened a door into yet another room full of fiber-y magic.

The concept:

3Ls: The three Leicester breeds, which have confusing names and quite different wools: Leicester Longwool, Border Leicester, and Bluefaced Leicester.

3Cs: Two C breeds that I couldn't tell apart before I began work on The Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook, Corriedale and Cormo (they're EASY to distinguish now, of course), plus another C that I knew would offer a totally distinctive spinning experience and that came from the same part of the world, Coopworth.

So we had three British breeds and three from New Zealand and Australia. We had six wools that vary in texture, history, interrelationships, and behavior.

I knew we'd come up with a good idea for a workshop, but I didn't realize exactly how good it was.

When I was getting ready for the class and dug into the details of these breeds (more deeply than we could for Fleece & Fiber), I came across details pertaining to each that opened my eyes to new ideas, as well as relationships that I didn't know existed between them, and so we ended up looking at about how breeds come into being and are defined, how some of them move around the world, why some succeed wildly while others (equally valuable) become endangered, how to tell one type of sheep from another (although it's hard to be certain, especially with all the crossbreds out there, a set of clues can help narrow the field) and the same about wools. We touched on how people worked with genetics before Mendel and Darwin came along, and some ways in which they work with them now.

And we spun a lot of delightful wool while surrounded by adventurous and interesting companions.

Thanks to all the folks who came to Howell, Michigan, for this voyage of discovery!


Then there's the sweater. In my so-called spare time, I'm making both swatches and a few finished objects that show possible applications of breed-specific wools. Recently finished, and debuted at The Spinning Loft as a working part of my wardrobe, was my new Cormo sweater.


I completed it while I was in Seattle helping get Mom settled in her new living situation. That's where I took the photo above, my first experiment with the self-timer on my camera. (My sister's house is set up better for this type of activity than my house is: she's got a great dividing wall between the kitchen and the dining room which can be used for an appropriate-height camera support. Plus she doesn't have boxes of wool samples in the background everywhere.)

It's Elsawool Cormo, fingering weight, woolen spun, in medium gray and dark gray. The pattern is Ann McCauley's Corrina, from Jared Flood's publication Wool People 3.

I made a few modifications in the design. Ann likes to work her sweaters in pieces, while I like mine in the round, so shifting construction methods was number one. Ann's design is single-color, and I had two colors that I wanted to use; the question was how, and you see my solution. I didn't figure I needed to draw a dark horizontal line across my hips, so the lower lace section is in the main color. I also have quite narrow shoulders that benefit from enhancement, so I added saddle shoulders. The biggest trick in that modification was calculating the saddle construction so they didn't bump into the lace patterning at the center front. (There is also a small lace motif at the center back, but its positioning wasn't an issue for this modification. I could have worked the lace and the saddle shaping simultaneously, but I didn't want to.) The other thing I needed to determine was how to combine the color shifts for the motifs at center front and back (intarsia) with the lace patterning—that is, where to change colors. I made my joins one stitch outside the lace areas, so that the lace-producing maneuvers would be cleanly inside the dark sections.

Oh, and I lengthened the body and the sleeves, but I always do that. I'm long-waisted, and I also like to have sleeves that keep my wrists, and ideally part of my hands, warm.

The sweater is extremely comfortable and practical. I ended up wearing it all last weekend, because the zipper on my sweatshirt broke on the first evening and limited my weather-appropriate wardrobe options. Not a problem. This sweater is a delight.

Cormo: Soft enough to be worn next to the skin (like in camisoles or sweaters to be worn without an underlying shirt); woolen-spun for lightness and warmth; fingering weight for flexibility and versatility; great color for travel; and it's wool, so when I spilled tea on myself I just grabbed a kleenex and dabbed it off, with no damage done, even temporarily.

I could live in this sweater. I may need another one . . . from a different breed-specific wool. I'll have to contemplate which breed, and gather or make the yarn. I also need a cardigan.


At the end of the weekend, Beth and I got to go see sheep! (This is a Scottish Blackface.)



9 thoughts on “3Ls, 3Cs, and a Cormo sweater”

  1. Deb, It sounds like the research for the workshop gave you new material for that wide-ranging book, and an expanded framework for understanding what I hope you’ll be writing about someday. We’ve talked about doors opening from F&F, and it seems like they still are, and they’re interesting ones that pay as well. I like that! BTW, that Cormo sweater is gorgeous! And looks wonderful on you. It’s nice to see you looking relatively relaxed in the photo. (I realize it’s only relatively, but still, given all you’re dealing with, that’s a big achievement.)

  2. I’m so glad you were there, Shelly! Thanks for affirming that our experimental idea worked out well for you.

    Susan, you’re right. And I’ve also been asked (via e-mail) to write an article that will give me a nugget for whatever that project is. PIECES of it are coming together very clearly and deeply, but the whole has not revealed itself yet.

    I’m glad I looked relaxed in the photo. I was practicing looking relaxed {grin}. I did need a haircut–hadn’t had time to get one! The sweater feels even better than it looks.

  3. By the way, sorry to everyone for having added an additional sign-in hurdle on the comments. Almost thirty spam messages in a single day exceeded my tolerance for deleting.

  4. Lovely sweater! I would have loved that class, but (although tons closer than others you have taught) was a bit outside my comfort range :-}
    I just received shipment on my new electric spinning machine, built by friend Teri (Dreamspinner). I have a lot to learn, but that is exciting!

  5. This sounds like a wonderful class! I would love to talk with you sometime about where you look to research breed history, it sounds fascinating.
    I got to check in about 80 fleeces last Friday for our local fiber festival – what a great opportunity to get up close & personal with a lot of different fleeces! It is such a Pandora’s box – the more I learn, the more I want to know.

  6. As a very new farmer, I want to thank you for your work on rare breeds. Thanks, in part, to your work in F&F Sourcebook, I have chosen to raise Gulf Coast sheep. I currently have 3 lambs who will be ready for breeding next fall. I have the hoggett fleeces from the first two, the other two to be shorn in the spring. Beautiful, beautiful fleeces, both of them.

    Would love to have you do some of these workshops at SAFF–we’re no MDS&W, but I have been trying to grow our fleece show.

    I am hoping to go to the ALBC conference in November. Thank you and thank Carol for your efforts that are encouraging people like to me go into the field (literally) with these rare breeds.

  7. Diana, some day our paths will cross in person! I did get to visit with Lynn and to meet Brian when I was in Michigan for this workshop (and to hear them play part of a gig–it was great). Enjoy your new spinner!

    You’re right about the Pandora’s box, Melissa. The more I know, the more I want to know, too. Researching breed history is also very tricky. The information comes in bits and pieces. Some breed societies keep extensive records, while others are focused entirely on the breed’s current economic benefits. Any records or accounts are kept from the perspective of the scribe, which makes for some interesting variations in the information. That’s part of why I enjoy it, but wow, it doesn’t make getting a comprehensive picture easy! I *hope* to have some time to write up some of what I’m finding, along with where I’m finding it. My goal is not to provide definitive information but to at least document where I’ve been so others won’t have to retrace those particular steps, or if they do they’ll be able to start from where I left off.

    Devin, it’s true that the sweater looks like it’s becoming a wardrobe workhorse. Yesterday our temperatures dropped from high 70sF to high 30s, and guess what I immediately reached for about 6 p.m.?

    I’m thrilled to hear about your Gulf Coast sheep, Laura! This is tremendously exciting, and thank you for choosing a breed that needs you, that suits your part of the world, and that grows such lovely wool. I forwarded a copy of your comments to Carol, who says, “cool!” On SAFF: I love fiber festivals, large and small. I book six travel-to-teach events a year (slightly flexible, but the teaching is very energy-intensive and that’s about all I can handle). As a result, I’m currently scheduling workshops for 2014. Just this week I started to work with a virtual assistant who will help me keep up with all the details (another limitation on how often I can teach). Our first project together involves preparing an information packet for events that may want to have me teach for them. I don’t think it will take long for us to get this in place.

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