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Re: View Liberty’s Yarn Kaguya

06/23/2010

Liberty's Yarns Kaguya in "Jimi".

 The Locavore movement isn’t just for foodies anymore. In a world where it’s easy to get exotic yarn and fiber from abroad, it’s comforting to find something that’s almost literally in your own backyard. Liberty, owner of Liberty’s Yarns, offers a chance to do exactly that.   

Rather than going elsewhere in search of sources of base yarn and fiber, Liberty says, “I really love the idea of supporting US companies/ranchers and keeping the yarn ‘product miles’ low”, and makes the most of this premise by getting her materials from local farmers and mills that make use of fiber from American sheep, which might also appeal to knitters and spinners who keep an eye on their carbon footprints.   

The yarn up for review, however, is less ordinary than more mainstream sock yarns. As in the Japanese folktale from which it gets it’s name, bamboo features prominently here, while many of its yarny cousins are composed solely of superwash wool of an undisclosed variety. Classified as a type of nylon, bamboo fiber lends an extra durability to the yarn, making it well suited to projects that might be subject to hard use–in this case, socks. The stitch definition is lovely, as is the texture. It’s easy to see why even the world of haute couture recognizes the appeal of something that comes from renewable resources. Knitters will probably find that the yarn resulting from the blend of bamboo and merino is not easy to put down; it slides over the needles and is very forgiving of any stress caused by frequent frogging or fixing of mistakes.    

Liberty draws inspiration from  sources as varied as Jimi Hendrix and classic literature, and her colorways reflect the care with which she chooses and bestows her names–or perhaps the names reflect the attention she lavishes on her colors. The warm glow of a fires at the Persian midwinter festival of Sadeh come blazing through the deep gold and orange of a colorway of the same name; the colors of  a koi swimming through a Japanese watercolor give life to a colorway called Tancho.  

Liberty’s Yarns Kaguya: Support your homegrown indie dyer!

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Re: View Corgi Hill Farm Shimmer Batts

03/10/2010
Corgi

Corgi Hill Werefox batt on Dragofly Workshop spindle.

When life handed  AnneMarie Lubow of Corgi Hill Farm a lemon, she made lemonade. After she was  downsized before she could even begin her new job in New England, she considered her options and decided to start a business which would draw on the experience gained dyeing fiber as part of her involvement with a medieval re-enactment group. She—with an assist from the ubiquitous corgis–runs her business out of her tiny cottage in Vermont, where her husband also works as a massage therapist, as a shop on Etsy.

Using fiber sourced in both the United States and the United Kingdom, Mrs. Lubow finds inspiration in subjects ranging from folklore—Werefox and the Unseelie Court—to more commonplace things like marmalade on toast or a cup of green tea. The colors and textures are so skillfully blended that the resulting fiber becomes a lush visual representation of the object or concept that inspired it—the Unseelie Court is an almost ominous mix of black and purple with a sparkling undertone. Dyeing her fiber blends in small batches of up to a pound allows continuity within each colorway. However, some of the blends are unrepeatable, meaning that once they’re gone, they’re gone.

Corgi Hill Farm sells roving—long strips of wool combed and/or carded so that the fibers all line up in the same direction—in a number of varieties. Besides Blue Faced Leicester, Mrs. Lubow also carries blends of merino and silk, as well as pure tussah silk; on  rarer occasions, some lucky person might see yak and silk blends posted for sale. And then there are the batts… but we’ll get to that in a minute.

Tussah, sometimes called wild or raw silk, comes from silkworms whose diet consists of leaves of plants other than the mulberry tree so often associated with the silk industry; this difference in diet often causes the resulting fiber to have an uneven thickness and a beige or brownish color. According to Wikipedia, bombyx worms usually meet an unpleasant fate when their cocoons are harvested; the pupae are either stabbed with a long thin needle or dipped in boiling liquid, thus ensuring that the silk can be unwound as one unbroken thread. Not so with tussah worms, whose cocoons are generally harvested after the moth has emerged, which might appeal to those who have ethical concerns about silk. For those also concerned about budgets, tussah isn’t as  costly as cultivated bombyx, allowing spinners to indulge their desire for exotic fiber without requiring them to take out a second mortgage. Silk, like any other protein fiber, takes acid dyes—including KoolAid—perfectly well.

Not only does tussah silk feature in Mrs. Lubow’s roving, but it also makes frequent appearances in her drum carded batts– rather than being a long strip of roving, the wool has been carded into a rectangle. Corgi Hill Farm’s batts come in two varieties, Lush and Shimmer, the latter of which is a combination of wool, silk, and sparkly Firestar—nylon fiber.

During my first visit to Mrs. Lubow’s Etsy shop, I was captivated by the Werefox batts and, when they arrived, I found that the fiber was so soft that it rivaled my Siamese cat’s fur; the cat quickly became jealous because I kept petting the batts and not giving her the attention she felt was her due. The colors more than do justice to the creature that inspired their creation: dark red mixed with white and beige, and a glimmer of something otherworldly. It’s easy to imagine that I’ve just caught a glimpse of Tamamo-no-mae.

This is my first experience with spinning fiber in a form other than top or roving, and I’m thrilled. The fiber is easy to pull apart and is more cooperative than some commercially produced roving I’ve met; there’s almost little to no predrafting or prep required.  Both silk and merino can sometimes be slippery and difficult to control, but I’m not having any such trouble here. I’m enjoying it so much, in fact, that I’ll be sad to come to the end of the fiber…

Corgi Hill Farm Shimmer Batts: Soft, fluffy representational art that’s a real treat to spin.

re: View Black Bunny Fibers BFL Sock yarn

02/28/2010

Few people are able to take the experience garnered from helping their children with a craft project and turn it into a full-fledged business venture. Black Bunny Fiber’s Carol Sulcoski, however, did exactly that. After experimenting with Kool Aid, Ms. Sulcoski switched to professional dyes and took her friends’ suggestion by posting her hand dyed yarn on Etsy. From there, she moved to her own website where she—with some assistance from bunny Charcoal, after which her business is named—continues to dye and sell yarn and spinning fiber, including wool from endangered breeds which she sometimes finds at fiber shows.
Ms. Sulcoski’s approach to dyeing produces a wide array of colorways ranging from the more subtly shaded Algae and Grape Goulash to the bold variegation of How Now and Paper Parasol, so even those who prefer a the calmest color scheme will likely find something to love. In either case, the colors are a richly saturated visual treat. How Now caught my attention and, over the holidays, someone was kind enough to give me a skein of Black Bunny Fibers BFL Sock yarn in that very colorway.
I’ve never actually giggled while winding yarn because it was so soft it tickled my fingers. Blue-Faced Leicester certainly falls into that category. BFL, according to the Blue-Faced Leicester Union website, is classified as a longwool breed. This means that, typically, the wool has a longer staple length—between three and six inches per strand—and micron count of about 26. In layman’s terms, the lower the micron count, the finer the wool, and the finer the wool, the softer the end product is likely to be, which is exactly why the yarn tickled my fingers when I wound it up. And that’s also why the finished yarn is such a delight to knit with.
That the yarn is soft has already been established. While not as tightly spun as some sock yarns, it’s still spun tightly enough to have a slightly bouncy texture and—joy!—lack of splittiness when confronted by sharp, pointy DPNs. There’s a subtle sheen that shows up in low light and is probably impossible to photograph, but it only adds to the experience by enhancing the visual appeal. Even finding a pattern to suit the wild unusual color combination was less of a challenge because, perhaps not by coincidence, Ms. Sulcoski also happens to have provided a solution in the form of the book Knitting Socks With Handpainted Yarn, to which she and a number of well known sock knitters contributed patterns. My hank of How Now is slowly turning into a pair of Whirlpool Socks, and I’m very pleased with the results.

Black Bunny Fiber’s BFL sock yarn: soft, shimmery, splashed with saturated colors. It’s hard not to develop a soft spot for it.