Thursday, April 21, 2016

Earth Day: How we recycle our water

For Earth Day, I wanted to share some information about our environmentally-friendly system for treating waste water.

The system was implemented by Robert Wells, company VP, who used skills from his first career as a research scientist in radiation biology to develop a unique method for water treatment.
Since we currently dye about 600-800 pounds of yarn per day, and each pound of yarn requires 10 gallons of water for the dyeing process, water is extremely valuable. Our location in a semi-arid climate surrounded by crop fields makes water especially valuable.
One of 4 dye vats in the mill

Our current system for recycling waste water was implemented in 2009. At that time, there were no existing models for recycling dye water, and Robert had to "start from scratch" determining which kinds of technology could meet the needs of the mill.

After going through the dye vat, waste water is highly acidic and has high salinity, as well as containing some leftover dye products that aren't taken up by the wool. The water is sent through an Ultra Filtration (UF) system, then goes through Reverse Osmosis (RO) to remove all solid matter from the water.  After another round of UF, clean water is returned to the dye vats to be re-used. So, instead of consuming fresh water for each round of dyeing, the same water can be used over and over again.

Any waste matter removed from the water is pumped into a completely sealed lagoon. This lagoon allows moisture to evaporate slowly. Naturally occurring bacteria degrade the dye matter, and eventually after 10-15 years the solid particles remaining (mostly carbon) will be disposed of.
The lagoon is equipped with evaporators that are programmed to shut off automatically if there is too much wind.

Most importantly, this system results in no environmental impact because the concentrated acid, salts, and particles necessary for the dye process will never harm the air, water, or soil.
The water treatment system requires constant monitoring and maintenance, and we continue to look for new technology that could make it even more efficient.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Weaving Hand Towels with Cotton Fine

I'm really excited about my latest weaving project. I intended for these hand towels to turn out bright, bold, and cheery. They did turn out that way, but so far everyone I've shown them to also describes them as "psychedelic".  I chose 7 pastel colors in Cotton Fine for the warp, and decided to weft with black for high contrast.

The warp colors look almost baby-like. .  but just wait for the black weft. It really changes the effect!

I wanted to make a set of 6 towels, so I measured 6 yards of warp. My reed was set at 18 ends per inch.  This came out to be 50 ends of each color (350 total ends); 300 yards per color. Two skeins of each warp color was more than enough.

Colors are CW795 Whispering Periwinkle, CW863 Apricot Nectar, CW620 Banana, SW250 Pink Azalea, CW640 Spryte, CW555 Robin Egg Blue, and CW305 Tropical Coral

According to Judy from Shuttles, Spindles, and Skeins, the appropriate ratio of length to width for hand towels is 1.67. So, I measured the width of my piece in the loom (18 inches) and multiplied it by 1.67 to arrive at the length of each towel: 30 inches.

The weft is CW005 Cavern. My loom is a Schacht 36" Mighty Wolf.
Each of the 6 towels was a different kind of twill. I found most of the twill patterns from the Handweaver's Pattern Directory by Anne Dixon (one of my favorite books to browse through while eating breakfast!). Several of the patterns were free-styled as I wove.
Between each towel I wove a small section in a contrasting color of Cotton Fine in plain weave.
When my piece was off the loom, I washed it and let it dry. Then, I sewed a line of zig-zag stitch along the edge of each towel.

Then, I cut them apart with my handy-dandy rotary cutter (thanks, mom!) and sewed a hem on the ends. I am not much of a sewer and needed some assistance from the mother-in-law, but it was really pretty easy.

The finished towels, after some shrinkage from washing and hemming, are about 17 inches wide by 26 inches long.
Here are snippets of my 6 different twill patterns
 I'm hoping to treat these just like store-bought towels, putting them through the washing machine and a low heat setting on the dryer. I think these will make really great gifts and will definitely add a loud pop of color to any kitchen or bathroom.

Thanks to everyone who helped me on this project! Happy weaving!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

What's In this Season with Brown Sheep Yarn

Not sure what to make for spring? Luckily, this Spring season brings lots of fresh new ideas for knit and crochet.

First up is the Abalone Tunic, from Love of Crochet Spring 2016. This tunic is designed in Serendipity Tweed, our blend of 60% cotton and 40% wool.

Serendipity Tweed is a delight to wear and comes in a multitude of colors
 This tunic is reminiscent of granny squares and peasant-style tops and would make a great layering piece for spring.

Another great new pattern comes from Vogue Knitting Early Spring 2016: the Pocketed Tunic.
Cotton Fleece: Our DK/light worsted blend of 80% cotton, 20% wool

Cotton Fine: the "little sister" to Cotton Fleece in exactly half the weight (fingering)

Stripes are knit in a combination of bold colors in Cotton Fleece and Cotton Fine held double in two colors, creating the tweed effect.

We can't wait to see what else is in store for this Spring!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Adventure Mitts

Looking for a fun, quick knit for spring? Try the new Adventure Mitts!
I wanted these mitts to be functional for any kind of adventure--leaving the fingers free to operate a bow-and-arrow, light a camp stove, put up a tent, or anything you can imagine--and also to remind the wearer of the spirit of adventure on a day-to-day basis.
These mitts were originally inspired by a trend I had noticed among younger girls--instead of all princesses and flowers, I had seen many girls wearing clothing with images of arrows, tents, canoes, and mountains. These kinds of themes are all over Pinterest, accompanied by quotes about adventure and exploring.  This also goes along with a growing interest in archery, thanks to several recent movies with archer heroines and heroes.
The pattern knits quickly and is worked in the round, with both colors carried along for the arrow section. They really are incredibly durable and will dry quickly. I get a lot of comments when I wear them in public. :)
Shown in Mountain Retreat (LL600) and Manor Grey (LL33)--but there are so many great choices in Lanaloft!

You may have already noticed that this pattern does not appear under free downloadable patterns on our website--we are having technical difficulties with editing this page. We apologize for any confusion. The good news is that you can look forward to a brand new website in the upcoming months!

For now, please find the link to download for free on Ravelry:

I would love to see your finished mitts if you decide to knit them. . . Post a picture on our Facebook page or post as a project on Ravelry!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Woven Blanket Scarves

Have you noticed the oversized, plaid scarves that seem to be everywhere lately? I admit that I'm mostly interested in fashion to the extent that I could weave, knit, or crochet something that's currently fashionable.  So of course, I had to enlist my mom's weaving expertise in creating one of these large scarves.
We wanted the scarves to be extra wide and long, but not overly hot to wear--sort of like flannel. We decided that Nature Spun Fingering would be ideal, woven at 16 ends per inch for a nice drape.
Nature Spun Fingering in 115 Bit of Blue, 110 Blueberry, 720 Ash, 730 Natural, 701 Stone, and 303 Sea Spray
These oversized scarves can be wrapped and worn in lots of other fun ways, too.

One of my favorite parts of any project is choosing the color scheme. I wanted the first scarf to be colorful and fun, yet neutral enough to match with anything. This color combo pairs warm neutrals with several cool blue shades.

The fringe is simply delightful.
I can only take credit for picking the colors--my mom did all the weaving on her Schacht Wolf Pup LT.  The finished scarf turned out to be about 17 inches wide and 90 inches long. I wish you could feel it--it's incredibly soft and squishy!

The next scarf has more of an earthy color scheme with an asymmetrical plaid pattern. I highly recommend checking out - it's rather addictive.

Scarf 2 in progress: colors are 720 Ash, 112 Elf Green, 110 Blueberry, 730 Natural, and 136 Chocolate Kisses

Warped and ready to weave!

Can't wait to wear my blanket scarf to the winter TNNA tradeshow in San Diego this week!
Beautiful finished scarf.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

New Color Line-Up for Cotton and Serendipity

New color development is an ongoing process here at Brown Sheep. Our latest round of new colors are for our "spring and summer" yarns: Cotton Fleece, Cotton Fine (a blend of 80% cotton and 20% wool) and Serendipity Tweed (a newer line of yarn made with 60% cotton and 40% wool). Although I don't want to divulge any secrets, the process of selecting new shades was quite fascinating to me--basically, we try to predict which colors will be popular in the upcoming 1-2 years--something that has been extensively studied by people in the fashion industry. We try to include new colors that will appeal to women, men and children as well as coordinate nicely with the existing color palette. These colors will be available for local yarn shops to order beginning January 1:

Four new colors in Cotton Fleece and Cotton Fine: Lentil, Olive Burst, Bering Sea Blue, and Apricot Nectar
Garden Green in Serendipity Tweed

Also in Serendipity Tweed, Tuscan Olive and Heathered Plum
 Both Cotton Fleece and Serendipity Tweed knit as a DK weight or light worsted. They also go well together. One of our free downloadable patterns, the Jade Pullover, uses Serendipity tweed for the body and Cotton Fleece for the sleeves. Available here:

Although I didn't knit this sweater, I do get a lot of compliments when I wear it!
Cotton Fleece and Fine are excellent for weaving. One of my latest projects was creating a window valance with my favorite (bright!) colors of Cotton Fleece. The yarn is very strong and great for warping.
Woven fabric in Cotton Fleece

Finished window valance

Since I'm on show-and-tell mode, I have to share another itty bitty project in Cotton Fleece: these adorable baby mitts designed by Susan B. Anderson. These were a fun little gift and a very quick knit.
Baby Mitts
The pattern for the mitts is available for free:

Hopefully you feel inspired to make something with our Cotton blend yarns. . . the possibilities are endless! Look for our new colors at your LYS. :)

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Have you discovered Nature Spun?

I've noticed that most Brown Sheep fans are all about Lamb's Pride. . . in fact, many knitters out there only think of Lamb's Pride when they think of Brown Sheep yarn! Don't get me wrong, I think Lamb's Pride is awesome but. . .  Nature Spun deserves more attention that it has been getting.
Nature Spun is a classic, 100% wool 3-ply yarn. The wool is U.S. grown and comes from the Front Range of Colorado and into Wyoming. All of our wool here is tested for fineness (micron count), and only the softest fibers go in to Nature Spun. Nature Spun is made in fingering, sport, worsted, and chunky weights in 80 different colors.
 Let me convey an experience I had trying to knit colorwork recently: I began the project using several colors of Superwash wool in sport weight. This was a stranded, Norwegian style hat for my husband and my first attempt at the project turned out to be too big. I decided to re-do the project with a new gauge: Nature Spun Fingering and smaller needles. Something unexpected happened on this go-around: my colorwork looked WAY better in Nature Spun! The stitches were so much more even and better defined. After some pondering I concluded that, of course, non-superwash wool is much better suited for intricate colorwork because the barbs in the wool fiber stick together better.
Here is my hat in Nature Spun Fingering, blocking. The first version of this hat ended up in Newfoundland.

So now as I progress further and further into fiber snobbishness, I realize that I much prefer knitting with natural wool fiber as opposed to superwash treated fiber. Not only do the stitches cling together better, the stiches are more forgiving if you happen to drop a stitch or make a mistake. Stitches actually stay in place rather than slipping undone, which is a major plus for a knitter who depends on being able to fix my mistakes as I go. This is especially helpful for lace or openwork styles of knitting.
There's certainly a time and place for knitting with Superwash--socks and kids come to mind. But for making an adult sweater or accessory-- Nature Spun is the way to go. Nature Spun has been making an appearance in many of the knitting magazines and publications lately.
Here is a project that is definitely on my queue. This pattern is called Polonaise by Ashwini Jambhekar.
This gorgeous sweater in Nature Spun worsted was inspired by Romantic era dresses

This comes from an online subscription-based magazine called Holla Knits! Check out their website and blog (featuring yarn giveaways!)

This site features fun patterns that are SO not frumpy! I'm having fun following this new site and I think you should check it out, too.