What's in a name?
Say "Donegal" and most knitters think of that robust, hearty stuff from County Donegal, spun on a spinning mule and peppered with colorful flecks of tweed. Soft Donegal is still made in County Donegal on a mule and peppered with those colorful
First came Shelter, launched in 2010—and then Loft the following year. Quarry completed the trilogy.
All three of the core Brooklyn Tweed yarns shared a very specific parentage. They were made from the coats of Targhee-Columbia sheep from Wyoming, whose fibers were scoured in the United
Once the backbone of the British empire, wool has declined in value so much that it's being buried or burned by farmers who pay more to shear a sheep than they can get for its fibers. Three people in the UK are trying to change
If you follow sports at all, you may recognize the name Tim Brown. A former New Zealand footballer, Brown played on the All Whites and was the undefeated player at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.
After retirement, he went on to pursue a
I first heard about the Exmoor Blueface sheep from John Arbon back in 2010 when I was in London for Knit Nation. This relatively new breed is the result of a cross between Exmoor Horn (a hill breed from north Devon) and Bluefaced Leicester sheep. The UK
A few years ago at Interweave Knitting Lab in Manchester, New Hampshire, I ventured into the North Light Fibers booth. I met Sven, who, with his wife, operates a mini-mill that produces their own line of branded yarns in Rhode Island.
We got to talking, and
We've reached that point in summer where even I, the ardent wearer of wool, am switching to cooler cottons and linens—even in my swatching.
A skein of Twig was placed in my hands at the summer TNNA show in June. It has stayed at the top
It takes guts for an American to move to Australia and start a sheep farm—especially if she is a woman with no prior farming experience. And then she adopts unconventional techniques for sheep farming, techniques that, I might add, appear to be working.
That, in a
Hand-dyers are painters who use yarn as their canvas. Some work their magic on commonly available base yarns, while others seek out the truly rare or unusual. Many more try to find a yarn that falls somewhere in between those extremes, a yarn that is
It all began with a picture on Instagram. Someone shared a gorgeous shot of a yarn I'd never seen before. It looked rugged, crunchy, and soulful, and I suspected it had quite a story behind it—so I hunted around online until I found an Etsy
Imagine if all the wine in the world—red and white alike—were mixed together and sold as generic "wine." Think of how many centuries of craftsmanship and flavor would be lost, and how mediocre it would taste compared with how it would taste if the grapes
To evolve from handspinner to yarn manufacturer is like switching from an upright piano to a pipe organ. Everything is bigger, more powerful and exhilarating. The potential for mistakes is huge, but so is the depth of satisfaction when you get it right.
After two years
When your grandmother's maiden name is Woolfolk, it's almost guaranteed that you'll go into the textiles business. Kristin Ford took the hint and has just launched Woolfolk, a yarn company she fittingly named after her grandmother.
The initial line-up consists of just two yarns, both unique
Erika Knight is the consummate knitwear designer. Teacher, lecturer, and author of countless books, she's been a fixture in the much-vaunted Rowan designer line-up for years. Not only does she know her technique, but she knows her yarn too.
After years of paying her dues,
At the 2010 Knit Nation market in London, the British yarn scene was just beginning to expand from big brands to smaller, more local producers. John Arbon Textiles had skeins of British wool spun at their own mill, and Renaissance Dyeing had French wool they'd sourced and naturally dyed by
It's time to create a "heritage yarn" classification. The notion of "heritage" anything, whether animal breed or seed variety, is best appreciated through a different, sometimes more forgiving lens. More forgiving in that these items haven't been pureed and homogenized and airbrushed and focus-group-tested into
The skein lies furry and limp, a bit like you'd shaved a cat and forgotten to clean it up. Like Gertrude Stein said about Oakland, there's no there there. Cirrus is soft all right, with a wonderful wooly fuzz to it. But when I squeeze the skein,
With online shopping more prevalent than ever, yarn stores are in a bit of a pickle. They need inventory that covers all the bases—yarns for sweaters, baby garb, socks, lace, etc. But they also need to be able to offer something totally unique, something a
For several years, knitwear designer Anne Hanson has been sourcing and shipping yarns for her Knitspot club. They tended to come from prominent hand-dyers, in exquisite colors, accompanied by original designs by Anne.
Then she decided to go deeper into fiber itself, launching her Bare Naked
Even mill owners like to experiment now and then. Colorflow is the playtime project of Anne Bosch, the owner of Blackberry Ridge Woolen Mill. She wanted to create a yarn with extremely long, slow color transitions—far longer than what you can get if you hand-dyed
Kristine Vejar wants to revitalize the California wool industry, and this yarn represents her first step. Vejar is the creative force behind the Oakland yarn shop A Verb for Keeping Warm.
Besides having discriminating taste in other people's yarns, which manifests itself in an astonishingly well-curated store,
A few years ago, Jill Draper escaped New York City to pursue a quieter, more fiber-filled life. She chose the Hudson Valley partly because of its proximity to Rhinebeck, a charming town she'd discovered through years of attending the New York Sheep and Wool Festival.
The UK has a vibrant textiles history. Most argue that the fortunes of the British empire were, in fact, based on the wool trade. Somewhere along the line, between globalization and our quest for softness, this trade faltered.
Today, Britain's wool manufacturing industry is hurting, as
In the 1960s, Meg Swansen spent a month in Reykjavik and fell in love with unusual "plates" of unspun Icelandic wool—which literally translate as "plötulopi." Instead of being spun, the fibers were simply carded together, peeled away into fine strips, and then wound onto cake-like
Lopi and I go way back. Growing up, I was always clothed in thick, rugged Icelandic sweaters knit by my maternal grandma. The sweaters (in the Lopapeysa style) were bulky yet surprisingly light, and they always kept me warm. They were all knit from Iceland's distinct "Lopi"
If you're a knitter, you already know that we do strange things when admiring a new skein of yarn. We might squeeze it, rub it against our neck, perhaps pull it to our face and give it a good sniff. When it's an especially big
Most yarn companies like to launch with a full fleet of products in varying weights and textures. Ewe Ewe Yarns took the complete opposite approach. It launched in 2011 with just one yarn: Wooly Worsted Merino. It's like opening a bakery with only one kind
Few yarns have been around long enough to be considered landmarks, and Tahki's Donegal Tweed is certainly one of them. This earthy yarn is still spun in the very county for which the yarn was named—County Donegal in Ireland.
Donegal Tweed is both a style of
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The Sincere Sheep was launched by Brooke Sinnes in 2011. Based in Northern California, Brooke focuses on carefully sourced natural fibers—in both yarn and roving form—to which she applies color using only natural dyes.
Her taste in fibers is exquisite, a
Let's cut to the chase: Loft is pretty much perfect. If I had all 32 colors at my disposal, I could easily see myself knitting with nothing but this yarn for the rest of my life.
Well, that might be an exaggeration—but only slight. After all,
Classic Elite Yarns has introduced a new undyed, natural-colors-only yarn collection called Mountaintop. The collection features three yarns to start, each of which is spun in Peru of fibers that have not been dyed or rendered machine-washable.
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First is Crestone, a hearty and
Back in 2000 when I began Knitter's Review, I assumed it'd be easy to find out where the fibers in my yarn came from—and, in the case of wool, which sheep breed had been used. Slowly the reality sank in.
Fibers tend to be sourced from
If you ever decide to drive up the Maine coast to Bar Harbor (and I think you should), your journey will take you past the coastal town of Belfast.
Stay on Route 1 and you'll see only the commercial outskirts of what is, at the center,
If we used nothing but ultrasoft Merino all our lives, we'd miss out on no end of spice and nuance in our fiber diet. And Foxen Sheep yarn, made from the wool of the Coburg Fox sheep, is all about spice and nuance.
Only some 4,000
Letting a designer create his or her own yarn from scratch is like giving a child the keys to a candy store. It's easy to lose focus and get overwhelmed by all the choices. It takes maturity and willpower to go slowly, be patient, and
Pam Allen has worn many hats in the knitting world. She was a knitwear designer, she wrote Knitting for Dummies, she edited Interweave Knits magazine, and she was the creative director for Classic Elite Yarns. Then, in January of this year, she appeared to have vanished from the knitting
In October 2014, Sweet Grass Wool was purchased by Kristine Vejar of A Verb for Keeping Warm. This review has been kept up here because it was one of my favorite breed-specific wools ever, and because Patti deserves to be remembered. Patti's legacy is in
A great and often heated debate exists between those knitters who like acrylic blends and those who don't. Much of that debate has actually been fueled by blends that simply don't live up to their potential.
I personally have a strong preference for natural fibers. When
Blue Sky Alpacas (now Blue Sky Fibers) was the belle of the ball at the most recent TNNA. The company cleverly did an end-run around any confusion that may exist about its name, which leads many to believe it only sells alpaca yarns.
The company got
If butter could be spun into yarn, that yarn would be Malabrigo.
As a company, Malabrigo actually offers several different kinds of yarn—including a perky new sock yarn, a decadent silk/Merino blend, and the chunky Merino reviewed here. But when people say "Malabrigo" they usually mean
Dream in Color is run by friends Veronica and Nancy. The magic begins when the yarns are hand-dyed using a process Veronica calls "veil dyeing." As with most hand-dyers, Veronica guards her dye secrets very closely. But the end result is a semisolid yarn whose extreme
A fixture in Denmark's knitting scene for more than 30 years, Marianne Isager is finally—and fittingly—entering the U.S. market. She dipped her toes in our waters a few years ago when Interweave Press published the English translation of her book, Knitting Out of Africa.
But that book represents a
This yarn is like a good rollerball pen. It's widely available, doesn't cost a fortune, feels great in your hands, and flatters your handwriting no matter what you write. In yarnspeak, this means Fresco is affordable, available, and willing to accommodate pretty much anything your
Linen has its fans and foes in the handknitting world. Derived from the stalk of the flax plant, linen fiber produces a strong, lustrous material that lasts a long, long time. But soft and fluffy it is not—and for many knitters, that's the most important
I still remember my first mail-order yarn purchase. It was from a mythical warehouse-sized place in Western Massachusetts where people pushed around entire shopping carts full of yarns. The yarn store—called Webs—offered a "color book" with generous samples of all its house yarns for knitting
One of my very favorite Merino yarns, Aurora 8, has a large and loyal following. It has the sponginess of a well-yeasted bread dough, paired with the exquisite softness of merino. It knits up quickly and easily.
Karabella Yarns upped the ante by releasing a bulky version
We've seen yarns that shift from color to color, and even from texture to texture—slubby to smooth, bouclé to bumpy. But Noro has just upped the ante with a yarn that not only shifts colors but actual fiber content: wool, silk, cashmere, alpaca, angora, kid
For more than 140 years, sheep have grazed along the Columbia Plateau in north central Oregon. Many of them were brought there by rancher Richard Rolland Hinton, a homesteader and respected sheepman whose early crossbreeding efforts helped develop what eventually became the Columbia sheep breed.
Occupying 3,000 acres along Montana's Rocky Mountain Front, Beaverslide Dry Goods is a family ranch whose Rambouillet/Merino sheep produce the yarns you see here.
When the sheep are shorn, their fibers are sent to a small woolen mill in Alberta, Canada, for processing. The mill practices
Restaurants sometimes offer a house wine that's of decent quality, reasonably priced, and available by the glass. Some yarn shops offer the knitterly equivalent, their own "house" yarn. And just like house wines, some are more memorable than others.
Halcyon Yarn is one of the most
Few companies can produce consistently beautiful hand-dyed yarns in quantities sufficient enough for large-scale distribution. Lorna's Laces is one.
The color combinations range from brilliant to bare whispers, with a small line of single colors that still carry subtle variations in hue. Although some catalogs and Web