Tuesday, March 17, 2015

New Handpaint Colors in Lana Boucle

Feast your eyes on this scrumptious swatch of our newest handpaint in Lana Boucle. "Candy Corn" will make a vibrant autumn sweater or accessory.

This handpaint coordinates charmingly with our lineup of solid Lana Boucle colors, especially Dark Mahogany, Cayenne Pepper, Golden Sunbeam, Deep Garnet, and/or Robust Raisin.
Lana Boucle is Brown Sheep Company's newest line of yarn.  If you are not familiar with boucle yarn, it is made with strand of thicker wool wrapped around a thinner strand, giving the yarn a twisty look.
Brought to you from beautiful Western Nebraska

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Having a Blast with Jane Austen Knits

It's not very often you find a book where you LOVE every single pattern. Ever since we got The Best of Jane Austen Knits in the mail, I've been nearly obsessed with it.  Not only are the patterns super classy, they are interspersed with articles about the history of knitting around Jane Austen's era. I was fascinated to learn that in the early 1800s, knitting was considered a craft for the poor. The ladies of high society would not have partaken in knitting, at least until Queen Victoria made knitting fashionable in the mid-1800s.

Knitting needles were often given to teenage girls as they left an orphanage, so that they could financially support themselves by knitting stockings.  During this era, men knit as well, especially wagon drivers who would knit stockings to earn some extra income. Although times have changed and knitting is purely a hobby for many people, I believe knitting still gives that sense of empowerment like it did over 200 years ago. Think of inmates who knit or crochet in order to save up some wages, or the many people who now earn extra income by selling handmade projects on Etsy or at fairs or farmer's markets.
I decided to knit the Sweetheart Bag pattern first.  It's the perfect tiny sized colorwork project: challenging (for me), but small enough not to take forever.

I chose 2 colors in Nature Spun Fingering, Olive Spring (NS149) and Natural (NS730).

Two-handed colorwork is so much fun to knit. For this project I learned how to wrap the carried strand on the wrong side so that my "floaters" were no longer than 4 stitches.

I found it very helpful to highlight the chart as I went along
Finished Sweetheart Bag! It will make a nice small-project bag.
Since there were so many floaters, I decided to line the bag with fabric. That's our puppy Purl in the background.

My mom knit the pattern called Pemberley Reticule. (Word of the day: reticule-- a woman's small handbag, originally netted and typically having a drawstring and decorated with embroidery or beading.) This beautiful reticule goes over the shoulder and is big enough to use as a shopping bag. Or perhaps, a bag in which to carry yarn.
Pemberley Reticule in Cotton Fleece Jubilant Jade (CW452)
The tied handles are lace-leaf shaped

I love the lace work on the bottom of the bag!
Snowshoeing + knitting = lots of fun!
I would highly recommend The Best of Jane Austen Knits book, especially because of the written articles. However you can also purchase these patterns on Ravelry:
Sweetheart Bag by Donna Kay
Pemberley Reticule by Catherine Salter Bayar

Here is the book info:
Edited by Amy Clarke Moore
Interweave/F+W; $22.99

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Learning to Spin on THE Wheel that Inspired Brown Sheep Company

I got to spend this Saturday spinning yarns with a group of women--literally. In fact, Brown Sheep Company might never have existed if it hadn't been for this lovely Ashford spinning wheel.
Peggy Jo Wells (Brown) was given this wheel as a Christmas gift from her parents, Janet and Harlan Brown.  Harlan took a liking to spinning with the wheel, and before long was inspired to begin the wool spinning mill we now know as Brown Sheep Company.
This weekend's class was taught by Katrina Tylee, who is our local farmer's market director and a former airplane mechanic. Kat described spinning as similar to patting your head while rubbing your belly--this was a very accurate description.  Spinning on a wheel requires treadling, or pedaling with your foot to keep the wheel spinning, while simultaneously feeding roving fibers into the wheel.
 Each of us taking the class had brought a different kind of spinning wheel. It was fascinating to watch each person learn to use their wheel.

This wheel, called a charkha, is especially unique. The charkha is one of the oldest styles of spinning wheels, originating India.  It is intended mainly for spinning with cotton and was made famous by Gandhi, who spun on a charkha and saw it as a symbol of self-sufficiency and independence.
Shawntae's wheel was made for spinning flax.  She found this wheel at an antique shop and refinished it. Since this week was made for very small fibers, Shawntae's wheel was extra challenging but she was spinning impressively well by the end of the day.
When I was a kid, my greatest dream was to be Laura Ingalls of Little House on the Prairie. Spinning on a wheel was greatly fulfilling to that eleven-year-old part of my self. There's just something very satisfying about creating something useful with your hands. Even if it looks like this:
I know this only slightly resembles yarn, but I spun it!
If you are already in to some kind of fiber arts, but haven't tried spinning, I would highly recommend it. Spinning will give you a true appreciation for what it means to make clothing "from scratch." We knitters are pretty spoiled to have yarn that's already been spun and dyed at our fingertips. Just imagine how much work it took to produce clothing when everything was done by hand.