Crown Mountain Farms Corriedale Pencil Roving
Pencil roving solves the problem by giving us a knittable form of unspun fiber. It is made from commercially prepared roving that has been drawn into fine narrow strips the diameter of—as the name suggests—a pencil.
Pencil roving is somewhat similar to White Buffalo Unspun, except that White Buffalo is made up of six thin strands of fiber, and pencil roving is made up of one substantial fiber mass. It knits up very quickly at 2.5 stitches per inch.
This particular pencil roving caught my eye for two reasons. First, it is made of pure Corriedale fiber, which is the result of a cross-breeding of Merino and English Lincoln Longwool sheep. The merino brings you a soft, supple hand while the English Lincoln Longwool adds luster and durability.
And second, this pencil roving has been hand-dyed in 42 splendidly vibrant and varied colorways with tempting names like Azure Sky, California Poppies, Berry Pie, Flaming Plums, Ruby Slippers, and—reviewed here—Watermelon.
I used a pair of super smooth, dull-tipped US 13 Turn of The Century needles for my swatches. Although the needles still snagged the fibers, the dull tip kept the needle from doing any damage.
I also tried to keep my hand movement broad and slightly exaggerated while knitting, keeping at a slow but steady pace and always watching my work. There's no need to rush this yarn anyway—it knits up fast enough as it is.
My stitches appeared large and even, like plump yeasted bread dough that's been knit and left to rise in a warm dark place. Swatches were perfectly square, with none of the bias you can sometimes get from single-ply spun yarns.
Because I love to spin, I also tried spinning a few yards of the roving. It behaved beautifully, drafting smoothly and forming an even strand. The short bursts of color on the roving translated into longer, smoother color patches on the yarn. When two strands were plied together, all those different colors twisted around one another like a candycane. And when knit up, the striking color contrasts softened into a more subtle play between hues.
Blocking / Washing
After briefly imitating lifeboats, confidently bobbing on top of the water, my swatches gave up the fight and relaxed into their warm soapy fate. They did not bleed, nor did they change gauge—but the fabric did flatten and relax into perfect form.
This yarn begs to be felted. If you don't want this to happen, keep any agitation in the water to a bare minimum. Just dunk your garment in the water, tap it with your fingertips until it is fully saturated with water, gently squeeze a few times to disperse the soap evenly, and that's it.
Pull the garment together in your hands, lift it from the water, and drop it in clean water of the same temperature. Repeat this process until no more bubbles appear in the water.
The dense fabric is actually more air than fiber, which means you'll be squeezing lots of water (plan on at least two towels for the job) and then blocking an almost-dry piece of fabric.
The whole process is a lot faster and easier than it sounds. Just don't get this fabric anywhere near an agitating washing machine unless you want thick felt on your hands.
While not rough or hairy in texture, this fiber does have a somewhat scratchy aftertouch, especially around sensitive areas such as the neck.
Just as with White Buffalo Unspun, Crown Mountain Farms' Corriedale pencil roving would be ideal for any kind of winter outerwear, especially hats. It'd also do well for home accessories that require thick fabric, such as potholders, blankets, or tea cosies.
And let's not forget the spunky hand-dyed multicolor combinations, which add another element to the equation.
Unlike many hand-dyed yarns, cost is not an issue here. At $.08 per yard, it falls on the low side of its peers—Brown Sheep Burly Spun retails for almost $.10 per yard, Reynolds Bulky Lopi runs $.09 per yard, and White Buffalo brings up the rear at less than $.02 per yard on closeout at Elann.
I enjoy fast-knitting instant gratification, but I also enjoy taking my time and creating more intricate knitted items with finer stitches. This pencil roving does double duty by providing superfast instant gratification as yarn, but also a slower, more delicate gratification as spinning fiber—assuming you know how to spin!
Corriedale Pencil Roving
Crown Mountain Farms
100% Corriedale wool
None given on label. On US 13 (9.0mm) needles my swatches knit up at 2.5 stitches per inch
Average retail price
Where to buy online
Crown Mountain Farms
Weight/yardage per skein
8 oz / approx. 175 yards
Country of origin
Manufacturer's suggested wash method
None given. I recommend gentle hand wash with cold water. Air dry flat.
Color used in review
Contact Crown Mountain Farms directly