Working with Wool to celebrate…sheep!
This afternoon, as WOVEMBER draws near its close, we are showcasing knitwear designs which in one way or another celebrate SHEEP! All of the designs featured here have been nominated by fellow WOVEMBERISTS in the WOVEMBER Ravelry group; thank you all for your sheepy suggestions, and if we have missed something out, please leave a link in the comments so we can all see how different knitwear designers have treated the origin of WOOL in their design work… unless otherwise stated, all of the images featured in this post are © the designers whose work is mentioned, and are used with kind permission. WOVEMBER has suggested appropriate 100% WOOL yarns for each project in case you want to make your own META PROJECTS which are made of WOOL while celebrating WOOL!
Let us begin with Meta Mittens by Beth Wolden. Beth says that ‘having purchased some good, sturdy, wool from a shop in Madison, WI, I was compelled to make a warm, water-resistant pair of mittens that had sheep on them’ and her resulting design makes superb use of the dense, matt, sheepy wool used. Beth used Yaeger’s Acres yarn, a 100% wool yarn in natural sheepy shades, which looks warm and wonderful in the photos. If you can track it down, we recommend you use it too, because Beth’s description of it is very enticing: ‘this is rough, sturdy stuff. If you don’t like scratchy tough wool, this yarn isn’t for you. It has a lot of lanolin and made my hands nice and soft after knitting with it. It did soften up quite a bit when washed’
Next up, we have Sheep Mittens by Jorid Linvik; a gorgeous, graphic representation of WOVEMBER’s favourite animals! We love the curvy lines, the fact that the ram and the ewe are both shown (on the front and back of the hand) and the delicate palette chosen by Jorid.
If you wanted to make your own sheepy pair, WOVEMBER suggests: Organic 4-ply Poll Dorset yarns from Renaissance dyeing; Blacker Yarns Guernsey yarns; or perhaps Jamieson & Smith Heritage or Jamieson & Smith 2-ply Jumper Weight. For for a blend which retains the nice translucence of the Alpaca originally used, but with a higher SHEEP content, you could also go for Titus which contains 50% Wensleydale, 20% Bluefaced Leicester and 30% UK Alpaca…
While we are on the subject of multi-fibre projects, check out this beautiful colour-work sweater designed by Liz Lovick – March of the Fibres – originally realised in 100% Shetland Wool. This design celebrates a wide variety of fibre-producing animals as well as Sheep, such as Alpacas, Camels, Angora Rabbits and Mohair Goats… Instructive on the different sorts of animals which produce fibre, this wonderful sweater pattern also utilises Shetland WOOL to best advantage; the stranded colourwork benefits from the bouncy, fuzzy nature of Jamieson & Smith 2-ply Jumper Weight, its lovely bloom, and the wonderful way that it blocks out into gorgeously even colourwork. Knitting March of the Fibres by Liz Lovick will instruct any fibre enthusiast on the wonders of Shetland Wool and also the massive quantity of animal buddies producing fibres that we can knit with. Liz also recommends that this pattern might be knitted in all the constituent fibres: this would be an amazing process, and WOVEMBER says that if you decide to do this, go the whole hog and read the Fleece & Fibre Sourcebook in between rounds.
Liz Lovick has also created a design more specifically focused on THE SHEEP; Shawl neck Sheep Sweater for children again utilises the natural sheepy shades of Jamieson & Smith 2-ply Jumper Weight in a jolly repeating motif of sheep that face us, and sheep turned away from us! We love the graphic, circular quality of the sheep in this design, and the way that they repeat across the fabric divided by little blades of grass. They look plump and well and very splendid in their Shetland shades.
We felt we should really also include the extraordinary St Kilda Shawl by Liz Lovick… although it does not actually visibly depict an actual sheep, the story of the yarn which was used in this design, collected and sorted by Jane Cooper, spun at Blacker Yarns, and designed with by Liz with the wool from our most critically endangered sheep breed (The Boreray) is just too amazing and wondrous not to include here! THE SHEEPY CREDENTIALS FOR THIS PROJECT ARE OFF THE CLOCK! Clicking through those links with a big mug of hot cocoa is absolutely recommended WOVEMBER reading; the yarn, the shawl, the story, are a triumph of finding markets for wool from our rarest sheep, and thus helping to keep this breed going. Huzzah for the Boreray breed, for Jane Cooper, Sue Blacker, and Liz Lovick. We heart this shawl and recommend that it is specifically knitted in the yarn which inspired its creation, because this yarn directly creates a market for wool from a critically endangered sheep breed.
Hurrah for these iconic sheepy designs! Are you ready for more? OF COURSE YOU ARE!
Next up we have Selbu-Baaa-Ter by Mary Scott Huff. This refreshed, contemporary take on traditional Selbu patterning also includes (for those of us completely obsessed with SOUNDS, ahem…) BELLS! What is not to love?!
WOVEMBER reckons a beautiful pair could also be made from Wensleydale 4-ply yarn from the Wensleydale Longwool shop, or in Excelana 4-ply! The beautiful, graphic sheepy design is a triumph of combining fresh new ideas with traditional knitting styles and we think a pair of these with pretty bells on top would be just the thing for a wonderfully sonic, sheepy start to 2014.
Jennifer Little’s beautiful Sheep Yoke Cardigan is another delightful riff on the theme of sheep grazing in their field, with the fantastic textural detail that the fuzzy sheeps’ coats are described in garter stitch against the stockinette which comprises the grass, ground and sky.
This charming design is worked in DK weight yarn and would be beautiful in something soft enough for a baby; WOVEMBER recommends something like this wonderful Bluefaced Leicester from Great British Yarns or the Pure English Merino which Blacker Yarns have started producing, as both of these yarns would be appropriate for purpose.
If you want not one but MANY sheepy things to knit, why not go the whole hog and make your own felted flock?
This pattern requires bulky weight yarn that will easily felt; some good 100% WOOL options for this purpose may include Garthenor Organic yarns in chunky or aran weight or Blacker Yarns in chunky or aran weight… as long as it will felt it will work!
There are many fine patterns which celebrate the Herdwick sheep, and a goodly quantity of patterns from the Herdy company, which promotes this traditional Cumbrian breed through contemporary graphic design.
This cushion, designed by Janice Anderson for the Herdy Company, is knitted with “Herdywool”, a 100% WOOL yarn made in the UK. Janice also designed this amazing rucksack for the Herdy Company.
There are tutorials for both of those designs on Janice’s blog which is a wonderfully sheepy place indeed… Check out Miranda the Masham Sheep, knit in Rowan British Breeds Yarn and designed for Wool Week (pattern available here).
Next up, we have a sheepy design from Julia Farwell Clay, which includes, ahem, A WOLF!
Julia says: ‘The hat came first, as a doodle and a chat with my son who at 11 years old is negotiating the broad territory between “cute” and “macho”, so I was allowed to knit him a sheep hat only if there were some wolves involved. The name of the hat is something he said during our conversation: “When sheep are around, wolves will be wolves.” I just thought it sounded very wise.’
After designing this gorgeous hat, Julia went on to make this wonderful cardigan, Welcome to the Flock.
Welcome to the flock is knitted in naturally dyed, 100% superwash merino wool yarn produced by Sincere Sheep. To continue the naturally dyed/100% WOOL theme you could try knitting this with DAZZLE from the Natural Dye Studio in 100% Bluefaced Leicester.
Now no collection of sheepy patterns would be complete without the iconic designs from our very own TEAM WOVEMBER MEMBER, Kate Davies.
Both Rams and Yowes and Sheep Carousel (and the iconic Sheep Heid, of which more momentarily) utilise the natural sheepy palette offered by the varied, coloured fleeces of Shetland Sheep, as represented in Shetland Supreme 2-ply Jumper Weight yarns from Jamieson & Smith. Utilising Shetland Wool’s suitability for colourwork to fantastic effect, these designs represent a particular approach to combining designs with materials. Like with the Meta Mittens by Beth Wolden, these Kate Davies Designs draw on the very materials of which they are made, and create lovely links between the actual sheep which inspired the design and whose fleeces have been used in their composition. How this real connection between sheep and their representation has inspired other knitters everywhere is evident in, for instance, this photo submission to the WOVEMBER competition;
‘Rams & Yowes knit with natural shades of Jamieson & Smith Shetland Supreme, draped behind the horns of a wild Alaskan Ram. I love the echoes of the ram horns in the blanket design and then in real life’ – Shelly Dockins Kocan
However we would like to show how one shepherd has taken this idea of linking real sheep with a sheepy knitwear design even further, and shall close this post by profiling a brilliant realisation of Kate Davies’s Sheep Heid. The following content is all © Sara Dunham of the amazing Punkin’s Patch blog, whom you may remember from last year: this is the story of Sunshine hat.
Once upon a time a wee Jacob lamb was born on a small yarn farm in Kentucky in the south central United States. She was an accidental breeding and born with some health issues that most lambs would have found insurmountable. She was a tough, cheerful little lamb though and in her short life she brightened many days. Her name was Sunshine.
She lived almost a year and I held her close as she passed. After the veterinarian left and I regrouped a bit, I decided to shear some of her beautiful black and white wool before we buried her down by the creek she loved. Her fleece was fairly short and my shearing job could have been better, but I washed it, wrapped it up and stored it away.
Earlier this year I was perusing patterns on Ravelry and came across Kate Davies’ Sheep Heid pattern designed to celebrate the many beautiful colors of Shetland wool by using yarn from nine different sheep. I decided to see if I could create a Jacob version of her stunning Fair Isle pattern, using colors blended from just one sheep… and I knew whose fleece would be just perfect.
I separated out everything that was absolutely black and absolutely white. I then used wool combs to blend varying shades of gray and ended up being able to spin six different colors of yarn. My sister-in-law is a puzzle master, so I had her re-work the intricate pattern colors from nine down to six and I modified the sheep and ram heads a bit to more closely match Jacob sheep.
It knit up perfectly and I used duplicate stitches to give each sheep a unique Jacob look with different spot patterns on their bodies and legs and even added two or four horns to each sheep. I can hardly wait for a good cold snap!
I truly appreciate the life I lead shepherding the mixed flock of wool sheep on our small farm. The joys far outweigh the few, but inevitable sorrows. In an era of mass production, my husband and I have an extra special connection to the wool we wear – sweaters from Punkin, Elizabeth, Jester, B. Willard, Ford, Marcel, Woolliam… and a hat from Sunshine.
For more stories and photographs of the sheep at Punkin’s Patch at Equinox Farm, visit www.myfavoritesheep.com.
WOVEMBER says: Thank you so much to all the designers who have allowed your amazing sheepy designs to be featured in this celebratory post! We are truly inspired and just wish there was more time to make EVERYTHING WOOLLEN AND SHEEPY!