In Review: Brown Sheep Company Burly Spun

About a decade ago, my husband, myself, and our infant son took a road trip from our home in Wisconsin out to Colorado. It’s true that many people look at Nebraska — and all the Great Plains states — as somewhere to drive through in order to get somewhere else. That’s just too bad because Nebraska is gorgeous country. Those long views and big sky of the plains states complete with the stunning rolling hills as you move further west have captivated our hearts as much as (or maybe even more!) any mountain range or ocean view. There is something about standing in a sea of grasslands that is… it feels like the essence of freedom.

As I was a new but already avid knitter, I was excited at the prospect of checking out a Brown Sheep Company, a source for American wool. You have to remember, this was before other big name American wool yarn purveyors that we are familiar with today even existed. Back in the early 2000s, the family owned and operated Brown Sheep Company had been making yarn for 20 years and really was the source for American wool yarn for knitters and crocheters. Going to Mitchell to visit the Brown Sheep Company was like a pilgrimage for me. My husband, who is a native of Nebraska, was more than happy to travel the full length of the corn-husker state in order to visit the far western reaches and the home of the Brown Sheep Company.  We were both pretty pleased with the details of this trip, indeed!

The timing of our visit — not to mention the fact that we had along a baby and a dog — made it impractical to do a mill tour, but I did get to visit the outlet shop. Let me tell you — oh, how I would LOVE to go back now knowing so much more than I did back then! In any case, I’d been thinking about that trip out to Western Nebraska recently, so when I received an email inviting me to review their Burly Spun yarn, I jumped. What a great way to reconnect with not just the memories, but also this fantastic yarn!

Burly Spun is a single-ply yarn, spun from 100% USA wool and is available in 31 solid colors as well as 8 hand painted colorways. Brown Sheep Company buys the majority of their wool directly from the growers and employs sustainable practices, too, so you can feel pretty darn good about the wool they produce. I selected a skein of the colorway named Strawberry Patch and Brown Sheep Company generously sent it my way. I knew my daughter was in need of some mittens and this yarn and its super bulky status was just the ticket. As warm as it is fast to knit, Burly Spun is pretty darn phenomenal for mittens to keep our northern tier fingers warm.

I’d originally planned to get them done earlier this month, but all the obligations of December got the better of me. Thankfully I knew once I sat down to it, they would be done in the blink of an eye. Two night ago I cast-on mittens using this Classic Cabled Hat & Mittens pattern on Ravelry.

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I started them around 4pm and knit on them throughout the evening. Even with a stop for dinner and multiple trips to chase the new puppy around the backyard, I was done before bedtime. When they call this yarn the “Fastest in the West,” they are not kidding!

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Didn’t they turn out great?!

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They are bright and soft and oh-so-cozy!

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Burly Spun is wonderful for mittens as it keeps your hands warm and dry. Normally I’m wary of knitting a cabled pattern in a handpainted yarn, but I think because of the size of the stitches (13 stitches and 18 rows over 4″ on size 10.5 needles) it just works super well. I got both mittens out of a bit less than 1 skein of yarn — enough that there was no yarn chicken, but not so much that I feel like any bit was wasted. And they might just be the prettiest mittens I’ve made yet!

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The only thing that bums me out is that I didn’t get enough to make the matching hat! I suppose with so many pretty colors, maybe I should get enough to make a set for myself in addition to the matching hat for my girl!

I want to thank Brown Sheep Company for providing this yarn and the opportunity to review their beautiful yarn. I truly hope one day that I’ll make it back their way again, but whether I do or not, this certainly will not be the last Brown Sheep Company yarn I work with!

 

In Review: Lazadas Project Caddy

I haven’t been doing as many reviews lately just because I haven’t had as much time as I once did for such things, but when I received an email offering an opportunity to review the new Lazadas Project Caddy, I was intrigued enough to make room in my schedule. I mean, a snag-free, flexible knitting bag that is sturdy enough to convert into a bowl? Yes, please! I’d like to try that out!

Normally I’m more of a natural fibers kind of gal, but one of my biggest problems, especially in summer, is that it’s far too easy to get my project bags dirty. So much of my fair weather time is spent outside and even if I’m just out on my deck spinning or knitting, let alone at a campground around the campfire, my project bags seem to be dust & dirt magnets. Don’t get me wrong, I love them and am thankful most of them are machine washable, but the idea of one that was made to handle the elements had me immediately interested.

Enter the Lazadas Project Caddy…

 

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I’ve been using it to hold my fauxlags for spinning projects lately. It’s 10″ long and 5″ deep, so it holds a lot — all 8oz of my fauxlags for this project are heaped in it in this picture, in fact! The sturdy structure of the bowl means not only can it hold what’s in the bowl, but I can stack my fiber and yarn in it as well, well beyond the top edges of the caddy — a point that is obvious from the picture! For my knititng friends, I would say I could comfortably fit 3-4 skeins of fingering weight yarn in it, less if you want to close it. Oh, yes, did I mention it closes? It’s ingenius, really. See the handle there coming off the back right side of the bowl? Well, it threads through this slot over on the other side…

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And voilà!

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My yarn bowl tucks into a neat little dumpling! Fabulous! Those little X’s on the side there? You can use them to secure your needles or keep multi-color projects from running amok. So many clever little aspects of the tool!

For those wondering, Lazadas Knitting Accessories is a family owned company based in Israel. As their name implies, they focus on knitting accessories — project caddies, stitch markers, flexible blocking wires, and — most recently — needle labels. In their description of this caddy, they deem it:

Modern materials for an ancient art in modern times.

And that’s just what they provide in all their products. A modern twist on knittig tools. The caddy is made with 100% silicon, which means it’s snag-free, so you don’t need to worry about your materials getting caught on zippers. Likewise, your needles won’t slip between the fibers, poking out of the caddy. Everything stays where it needs to be, undamaged. And for those who might be worried that a silicon bag might smell plastic-y… it doesn’t. It’s odorless. What an innovative container!

All in all, this is one functional little piece of art — a fantastic addition to my knitting & spinning toolkit if I do say so!

 

Many thanks to Lazadas Knitting Accessories from providing me with this Project Caddy for review.

The Coziest Himalayan Summit

When I used to think of a Himalayan Summit, I didn’t think cozy. My thoughts would go to ice and avalanches and crampons. Leave it to Bijou Basin Ranch to defy conventional thinking though and completely revolutionize what I think of when I hear the words “Himalayan Summit’. Now, I think of this…

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50% Tibetan Yak + 50% Merino Wool. Let me tell you, it doesn’t get a whole lot softer than this!

I also think of this amazing assortment of goodies that the wonderful folks at Bijou Basin Ranch sent me when they kindly sent me the yarn for review…

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I always feel so spoiled — like I’m not just getting yarn to review, but a care package from friends with this shop send me goodies.

The yarn was so soft, in fact, that I actually chose to wind it the old fashioned way, just to spend a little more time with it in my hands…

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This yarn is a limited edition colorway called Crab Nebula dyed by ModeKnit for Bijou Basin Ranch. They’ve been partnering up with indie dyers the past few years in order to get some really unique, very fresh colorways. This colorway was so pretty ‘as is’ that I opted for a very simple pattern, my first ever Sockhead Slouch Hat. It’s a free pattern on Ravelry that I’ve seen knit up hundreds of times and it was about time I got around to knitting it for myself. This fabulous yarn was the perfect match.

After winding my yarn I discovered that the US 2.5 needle was literally the one needle size greater than a US 1 (I have never had the need for anything lower than US 1) that I did not own in circulars. I ordered some ChiaoGoo interchangeable tips and cords just to try them out.

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I started with what I believe was a 14″ cord, thinking it would be similar to the 16″ ones I’m used to, but it was a little tight, especially in the ribbing. I didn’t want to fight with my equipment, so I went back online and ordered the 8″ cord and waited for it to arrive.

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The 8″ was so much better! I had already purchased the 30″ for magic looping the crown, so I knew I was all set. I though the Chiaogoos were a great needle with smooth, easy to secure joins, nice sharp tips, and very comfy in the hands. Well worth all the hype I’ve heard from knitting friends. Between the needles and the yarn, I simply flew through this knit.

And voilá!

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Finished in no time flat!

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I’m especially impressed that there was so little pooling in the colorway. And I really just adore the vivid blues and oranges — the colors just POP.

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It’s a super, super slouchy hat, as the name of the pattern implies. Pair the nice long folding brim with the 50/50 yak/merino blend and this is simply a heavenly hat — so soft and so warm. Gah! I just love it!

I tried very hard to discourage the sproingy haired bandit from stealing this one. I went to great lengths with all sorts of shenanigans…

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So far, my plan has been working and I’ve managed to keep this one in my own hat stash.  It helps that I hung it up on a rack that she can’t reach. Keep your fingers crossed for me because this is the coziest Himalayan Summit I can imagine and I think I want to keep it all for myself!

 

Many thanks to Bijou Basin Ranch for sending me this yarn for review!

 

 

 

 

Of Course. It’s Yours.

Many moons ago, I got this yarn in the mail from Mountain Meadow Wool, the last installment of a 3-month Legacy Yarn Club subscription.

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It is Mountain Meadow Wool’s Mountain Down, a 25% hand-pulled bison from Durham Ranch and 75% Mountain Merino from Camino Ranch, both in Wyoming. My family and I are definitely unnaturally into the plains and all the flora and fauna that live upon it, so this 25% bison yarn just had to be knit up into something special.

I ended up going with the original pattern I picked for the yarn, Elbert by Ysolda Teague. It was part of my “September of colorwork” and for reason after reason I’ve been super slow getting images up here with it. It’s definitely not for lack of love…

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Because it was a beautiful knit. The yarn was absolutely dreamy.

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But mostly I just knit it super quickly. And then it sat in limbo, without its pom for a good long while…

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You know how that goes. Life keeps happening and those little tasks keep falling between the cracks.

And then one day…

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You get that pom attached.

 

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And you’re like, “Hey, this hat is pretty rad.”

It’s not as slouchy as the pattern intends — I could have gone up a needle size, but I wanted a tighter gauge for a more winter-friendly result. It fits like a proper hat or large beanie and I think it’s just perfect. Perfect for such special yarn, perfect for winter, perfect for everyday wear.

And as I was admiring it with the newly affixed pom, my daughter walked up to me and was like, “Hey mom, can I have that hat?”

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And I said, “Of course. It’s yours.” Perfect for such a special yarn. Perfect for winter. Perfect for everyday wear. Perfect for my girl.

 

Many thanks to Mountain Mountain Wool Mill for providing this yarn to me for review!

In Review: Shepherd’s Lamb Rambouillet

It’s a well-known fact that I have a love of American wool, especially that which is sourced from family farms. The opportunity to try out Shepherd’s Lamb Rambouillet for a yarn review, therefore, was just too good to pass up. Shepherd’s Lamb wools come from a family owned and operated ranch in New Mexico. They specialize in Rambouillet and Churro sheep and produce not only yarn, but also top quality blankets, pelts, and meat. It’s a true working ranch.

The 2-ply Rambouillet is 100% organic and dyed with natural dyes. A DK weight, this yarn comes in 180 yard skeins. I was able to select a color and – believe it or not — I selected a cochineal dyed skein which happens to be… you guessed it, PINK.

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It’s a really pretty, soft pink, too, so as soon as I had it in my hands, I knew it would be another great gift for my daughter’s birthday.

I selected the End of Summer hat pattern, a sweet little lace number that I thought would compliment this sweet pink well.

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The hit of this hat is definitely the cabled brim. It’s such a pretty detail and the yarn gives just the perfect amount of stitch definition.

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The yarn itself has the feel and look of that which I’ve come to expect from a smaller scale farm flock; it’s a bit rustic and it feels beautifully close to the source. The real magic comes when you wash it — it’s softens and blooms tremendously. Soft enough, in fact, for a little girl to happily wear on a chilly October afternoon.

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It’s a great yarn to use with a lace motif like this because not only is the stitch definition very nice, the wool remains quite warm despite the open work.

 

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I’m so thankful that the folks at Shepherd’s Lamb were kind enough to send me this skein to test out. I got to fall in love with a beautiful new-to-me yarn and my daughter got a hat that she loves for her birthday. I think the transformation from skein to finished, blocked hat was a really fun journey with this yarn and I think many of you would enjoy it, too. With winter on it’s way, this yarn adds a beautiful & unique option for keeping your loved ones warm as the temperatures start to plunge. Add in the fact that it is domestic & naturally-dyed, and I’d call that a perfect yarn to knit into a gift or give as a gift as is for the holidays!

 

I hope you’ll read more about Shepherd’s Lamb’s story here and check out their website, too. You can also find them on Facebook and Instagram.

Once In 15 Years

In May, I finally ordered my first yarn from Barrett Wool Co, Susan B. Anderson’s yarn company.

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I don’t know why, but I hadn’t really been in a rush to try it until I saw the Wildflowers Cap pattern in Making Magazine & then noticed the subsequent kit from Barrett Wool Co. It combined my love for colorwork with a pretty blue at a time when I realized I was low on hats for the coming winter, so I ordered the kit figuring I’d enjoy some colorwork, make a cozy hat, and try out this new-to-me yarn.

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And like so many things, I set it aside while I was working on more pressing projects.

As many of you know, I love colorwork. I love the process as much as the results so much so that when I work on colorwork projects I tend to be even more obsessive with them than my normal craft (and that’s saying something) and I finish them really, really quickly. It’s also true that the longer I work in colorwork, the more consistent my stitches. Since I work 2-color projects holding one yarn in each hand, that makes a lot of sense. It takes time to get that hand that isn’t usually holding working yarn to hold the yarn just right and get the tension where I want it. With this in mind, I had three colorwork projects lined up for September the last of which would be a gift knit that I wanted to be just perfect (it’s still in progress because I’m perpetually late with projects lately. The second project on that list, though, was the Wildflowers Cap.

I got the yarn wound, threw it in my bag, and took it up with me when we traveled to visit my parents. When I finished the first project and went to cast this one on, I was feeling good about my colorwork and was excited to get through the ribbing and on to the next 2-color section. When I cast-on with the Wisconsin Woolen Spun though, something happened that really doesn’t happen very often for me with mill spun yarn. I was really blown away.

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As the name indicates, this yarn is woolen spun which makes it unique in its own right from most of the mill spun yarn available. It is so light & airy and has so much bounce & elasticity that I am just in awe. As a spinner who is working her way up to learning how to spin a woolen yarn, it absolutely fascinated me. In the 15 years I’ve been knitting, I’ve only see one yarn even come close to this kind of spin. And 9/10 times, I’d choose the Wisconsin Woolen Spun over that ‘other’ — it’s just that good.

It goes without saying that it played very nicely with that colorwork assignment, too. The pattern was really fun to watch take shape and required only minimal trapping on the wrong side, so while I would peg it a bit more advanced than true beginner colorwork project, it’s do-able for an second colorwork project or a very ambitious first. For me, of course, this hat was done in almost no time at all.

I blocked it last week, including a glug of vinegar in the luke-warm soak water just in case it considered bleeding — it’s a precaution I pretty much always take with multi-color projects from dyers with whom I’m not yet familiar. I’m happy to say there were no issues and the bloom of the wool that followed the bath was a delight.

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I didn’t think the yarn would be more pleasing than it was to work with, but after a wash and dry, it was.

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It’s just plump and squishy and so wonderfully warm.

Because of wet weather and the double-thickness of the colorwork, it took a while to dry and I happened to set it outside to finish drying in the sun while my in-laws were here. My mother-in-law saw it and fell in love, so of course I sent it home with her where I know she will use it and enjoy it. What more can a knitter ask?

I do have some leftovers…

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And based on weight alone, I think I may have enough to make a second hat from the kit yarns. I’m aiming to cast-on as soon as I finish that third colorwork project. I’ll let you know how it goes, but I’m hoping that I won’t be playing too exciting of a game of yarn chicken with my second cap!

If my gushing isn’t enough, I want to add that as soon as I finished my Wildflowers Cap, I went online and ordered a skein of the Wisconsin Woolen Spun fingering weight. Knowing how much I love the worsted version, I just had to try the fingering.

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It’s a big 450yard skein and I bought the same blue that the Wildflowers Cap used — I should have tried a different color, but I have a weakness for a good blue that this is a really good blue. Despite the fact that I will have way too much yarn, I have a simple hat in mind. I’m thinking maybe of Susan B. Anderson’s Baker’s Hat because I’ve wanted to make it since she published the pattern. I haven’t decided for sure yet though.

It may not seem like it, I consider this skein of fingering weight a great coup in the restraint department. What I wanted to order was the Gigi Cardigan Kit in Bright Penny. What can I say? I have such a weakness for good yarn. And a yarn that is so unique & so special that I don’t even have anything to really compare it to? My impulse is to corner the market and knit everything conceivable with Wisconsin Woolen Spun for the foreseeable future. Alas, I’ll just have to savor these two smaller projects for the time being, Who knows, I may even do the unheard of and knit a colorwork project slowly just to enjoy every last stitch of this lovely yarn.