custom woolen mills

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One of the makes I finished in April was my Aveiro sweater, by Orlane Sucche of Tête Bêche Knitwear. I shared the early stages of this one back in February, and I think it was originally cast on in January, so I didn’t quite bang it out the way I’d originally hoped. But I’ve been planning to write about this one because I wanted to share my thoughts about the yarn in particular.

custom woolen mills

I knit this up in yarn from Custom Woolen Mills, a mill in Alberta, Canada whose focus is Canadian-grown wool. For full disclosure, this yarn was sent to me free of charge to try out. I have long been interested in locally, or at least domestically-grown and produced wool yarns, so after we moved to Canada in 2017 I expressed an interest in that as well. I knew very little about Canadian wool or available Canadian wool yarns, and so when Custom Woolen Mills offered to let me try their mule-spun yarn I very gratefully accepted. I thought they might send 2-3 skeins; I did not expect them to send a sweater quantity! I received 6 skeins and a bundle of minis of their 2-ply mule-spun yarn (a worsted weight): 4 natural grey skeins, and the others were naturally dyed. The skeins are 4 oz. (112 grams) with 198m / 216 yds, making this a heavy worsted. I’d probably go as far as to call it an aran weight.

“Mule-spun” refers to the fact that the yarn is spun on a spinning mule, so named because it was a cross between the spinning jenny and the water frame. If you’ve read Clara Parkes’ Vanishing Fleece you may remember that one of her Great White Bale yarns was spun on a mule spinner in Maine, and that they’re a rarity these days (you’ll find that info in chapter 6).

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I decided to knit Aveiro with this yarn because I liked how it looked both in the pattern photos and people’s project photos, and it was easy to an additional color to the stripes so I’d be able to use both blues for the contrast. I knew the shape might be a little bit of a gamble – the raglan yoke is very deep to begin with, and I knit this at a slightly larger gauge than recommended so mine is even deeper (I went with a larger gauge since my yarn was slightly heavier than the yarn called for in the pattern). I’m still not sure if I’m sold on the shape, but otherwise I’m very fond of the finished sweater.

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As for the yarn: this is one of those yarns that really benefits from a good wash. The dyed colors smelled and felt more pleasant from the get-go, but the undyed grey either had some residual lanolin or spinning oil still in the yarn that I didn’t totally enjoy. When I blocked this sweater, I soaked it twice, emptying the water in between – I did the first soak with some of my shampoo in the water, and I used Soak wash (which is my usual wool wash) on the second soak. The finished sweater smells lovely and the residual oily feeling is definitely gone. The fabric blooms up marvelously with washing, as well.

On the downside, every skein had at least one knot. I’m not sure if there’s something about the mule spinning process that makes breakage (and thus knots) more likely, but some skeins even had multiple knots. I dealt with this by wet splicing the yarn wherever I encountered knots, which was mildly annoying, but no more than that. I also wet spliced each time I joined a new skein of the grey. The knots wouldn’t keep me from using this yarn again, given that it was relatively easy to join by splicing.

It feels like it’s going to wear very well, especially at this gauge, but as for that only time will tell!

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Thank you so much to Custom Woolen Mills for the yarn, and you can find additional details about my modifications, yarn amounts, etc. over on my Ravelry project page.

reflections on making

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Halfway through the second month of 2020, I’m beginning to get a sense of how limited my time for making is at the moment (and is likely to remain for at least several more months). Hashtag PhD life, or something like that? I’m getting a little bit of knitting done here and there, but it all feels like it’s moving at a glacial pace. I have two sock projects on the go, which I sometimes bring on my commute to work on, but I’m still on the first sock of both pairs. Most of the sweaters I have on the needles are fingering weight sweaters, which prompted me to cast on a worsted weight sweater a few weeks ago in the hopes that I could bang it out, but that also feels slow and now I just have another WIP. So you could say I’ve been thinking lately about my priorities when it comes to my making this year, and I thought I’d share what I’m feeling with you all.

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Firstly, after being apart from the majority of my WIPs and my stash for six months, I’m feeling slightly overwhelmed by it all now that I have it back. Not entirely in a bad way – I missed it and I feel an excitement to work on projects with all these beautiful materials I’ve collected – but what makes it overwhelming is the relatively slow pace at which I’m working on projects at the moment. I managed to work through a lot of what I had with me in the fall, which felt very freeing, and I’m just not feeling that freedom anymore. This means I’m feeling two strong desires: one is to work through my existing WIPs (16 is the current count, going by my Ravelry project page), and the other is a desire to work from stash for new projects. I really, genuinely want to be doing both of those things. And that feels really good, although it’s clearly going to take a little while to work on the WIPs. A few of them aren’t so far from being finished (like my Galore as well as this summery sweater) and trying to get them wrapped up in the next couple of months will probably help a lot.

The other thing I’m feeling really strongly is a desire to make things for friends and family. This isn’t entirely incompatible with wanting to knit from my stash, luckily, but it is somewhat at odds with trying to get through my WIPs. Nonetheless, after being reuinited with *all my knits* I’m also feeling how much I don’t need anything new, despite all the yarn kicking around in my stash. Of course there are sweaters and other things I want to make for myself that I already have yarn for, but I have plenty of yarn to do more knitting for others, as well.

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I know a lot of this is really in line with how many other crafters are feeling right now – The Crimson Stitchery is one of my favorite podcasts, and Anushka has talked a lot in recent videos about storage space, stash, WIPs, and desire vs. necessity. I really appreciate her approach to crafting as it’s always creative and beautiful, but also thrifty and practical. (The tagline for her podcast is “making all things beautiful and useful.”) She’s hosting an initiative called Stashless2020 in which you can join in with the aim to do one of two things: either try to work through your existing stash to become completely stashless, or put less into your stash and work more from what you already have. I definitely fall into the latter category – even if I had all the time in the world to knit this year, I wouldn’t empty my stash – but I appreciate the encouragement provided by a group effort, and knowing there are others feeling the same. If you’re intrigued by the idea of Stashless2020, I’d encourage you to check out this video where Anuskha discusses the question, “Can I go stashless in 2020?”

I am so lucky to have so many beautiful things to make with, so when I feel frustrated by how slowly my projects seem to be going at the moment, I just try to remind myself: it’s not a race.