Flock / 1st Edition : From Sheep to Shelf

Posted by Kristine Vejar on July 31, 2015 2 Comments

I learned to spin in 2002 - and instantly became obsessed with the idea of combining fiber types when making yarn. My first goal was to learn about the properties of each type of wool. Feeling confident that I knew the main differences between an Icelandic fleece and a Targhee fleece, I found myself looking at the various strengths - or weaknesses - and looking to pair fibers.

We have decided to create a line of yarn called Flock - which indicates that we have combined either fleece from various farms and / or fleece from various types of sheep or types of animals. Today, we are releasing our 1st edition of Flock, our newest California wool yarn.

Flock / 1sr Edition is constructed of one strand of spun wool - this is referred to as a single. This has always been one of my favorite kinds of yarn to spin and to knit. I adore the rustic quality.

This yarn has quite a tale to tell - starting back in 2012. Sue Reuser, a renowned Cormo sheep farmer, living just outside Chico, had a stroke. Sue had been raising Cormo for many years. She paid great attention to her sheep, only breeding those with the best attributes of strong body, wool, and mind. She raised Cormo sheep in a multitude of colors. Her award winning fleeces were highly sought after by spinners. While she had a positive recovery, Sue decided that her time had come to sell her farm and her sheep. I had quite a few fleeces from Sue which I was hand-spinning (ahem, coveting). I decided to purchase a large quantity of white fleeces from her with the idea of milling them into yarn for Verb.

Then, in 2013, I began to work with Matt Gilbert, a local shearer, and the person who is working to start Mendocino Wool Mill. Through Matt, I was able to purchase Targhee from a Mendocino County wool grower. In 2014, Matt connected me with a farmer, named Leigh, who loves animals - and has quite a collection - including the Corriedale used in this yarn. Sarah went on quite an adventure to get this wool. When shearing season comes around, we like to say that things becomes very alive - in other words - chaotic (though now with more perspective, and having continued to work with nature and the earth this Summer, I think anytime when working this closely with nature, life tends to be rather edgy - more on that soon).

I had planned to go with Matt to shear Leigh’s sheep. Matt shears, and we skirt (remove all the poopy bits / wool that is too short to be milled into yarn). One thing led to another, and when the shearing date came, it landed on a day in which I was going to be out of town. So Sarah bravely volunteered her time to travel to Cloverdale and skirt with Matt.

Leigh’s sheep are more like pets than livestock. She doesn’t like to shear her sheep because she thinks it is stressful for them. Yes, the sheep do bleat while waiting to be shorn. That said, the sheep, once they have received their annual haircut, jump out of the pen, and go right back to grazing. If I were to project onto the sheep what I think they could be feeling - I would have to say, in 100 degree weather, hardly a tree in sight, the sheep feel better without 12 pounds of wool. Needless to say, Leigh had not shorn her sheep in over a year and a half, so their wool was quite long. Leigh’s barn is not set up for organizing the sheep into a line for shearing, so it was quite an adventure to catch the sheep to lead them to the shearing station. Sarah and Matt persisted. When you look at Flock, that beautiful line of grey running through the yarn is from Leigh’s pretty, naturally colored sheep

In 2014, I was very occupied writing my upcoming book, The Modern Natural Dyer, dreaming about the yarn I could make when the book was completed. Writing a book was so exciting, yet I had no idea how many things had to be put on hold to fulfill that monumental project. So, once the final manuscript was submitted to my publisher, with photos. I began to wade through this large amount of wool I had amassed, and began to contemplate what to do with it.

Looming in the wings, I had promised Verb’s yarn club, Pro-Verbial, I would mill a yarn for them, and I needed to come through on my promise. That was my first priority. Because the designs created for Pro-Verbial (subscriptions opened today for Year 6!) are focused upon shawls and wraps, I knew I wanted to mill something a bit finer; lace-weight, fingering-weight, or sport-weight. I analyzed using only one of the wools for this yarn. But then began to think how beautiful it would be to combine these various wools into one yarn. The Cormo is exquisitely soft, though can be prone to pills since the fleece is so fine, the targhee picks up dye nicely, is a great middle-of-the-road fleece, soft but not so fine that it is hard to mill, and the corriedale, which can be a bit toothy at times, which the cormo would help balance, was shades of beautiful brown and grey.

We have had a great experience working with Green Mountain Spinnery, so we decided to send it to them to have the yarn milled. Though first before the wool could be sent to Green Mountain Spinnery, it had to be packaged. The only wool we have worked with from farm to finished yarn - is Sally’s wool for our line of yarn named Horizon. At Sally’s we had put the wool into cardboard containers, strapped these to pallets, and shipped them from Sally’s farm. This is the first time we needed to figure out how to get 350 pounds of wool packed. We began to brainstorm. And remembered meeting a man, named Joe Pozzi, at Fibershed’s first Fine Wool Symposium. He was on the panel there. And his flock is over one thousand heads. Most of his wool is used for wool felt, batting for comforters, and the like, as it has a bit too much tooth for knitting sweaters. We decided to give him a call to learn what he does with his wool. And guess what? He did! He has a motorized wool baler. Usually the wool baler is out, sometimes for months with the shearing team, though it just so happened that it was dropped off at his western Sonoma county barn. He graciously invited us to bring our wool and have it baled. His baler is from New Zealand.

Side Note: Upon researching balers we came across a collection of amazing videos.

This first one - about 2 minutes in - watch two women get to work on creating a wool bale by hand. Tough stuff! 

Then, we came to learn about a competition in New Zealand called the Golden Shears. Here's a video of women in a shearing competition with Girls Just Wanna Have Fun by Cindi Lauper playing in the background.

Back to this story --> So now we had our wool packed hard into a very large tyvek envelope. Joe, using a pair of very sharp hooks fit over his hands - which are usually used to move straw bales - rolled the bale into Adrienne's pickup truck.

We were so excited - cruising down the road - where we made a pit stop at the beach before heading home. Just me, Adrienne, Cleo, Callie, and our bale of wool.

So now it was time to ship the bale. And we quickly ran into a quandary...you know, we are really used to weighing pretty small quantities of yarn - or dye - in the shop - things more in the range of 1 pound, maybe 10 pounds. Well, something we did not think about was how on earth we were going to weigh this bale in order to ship it! Moreover, how were we going to get the bale out of Adrienne's truck, onto a scale, and then back onto Adrienne's truck.

We drove over to West Oakland, near the Port, amidst the semi-trucks hauling containers, we drove onto the scale. From researching on the internet of what Adrienne's truck might weight, and what we guessed the weight as from our invoices for the wool, we were able to schedule the pick-up for the wool for the next day. The truck showed up - and we rolled the bale into the trailer. We waved goodbye - hoping that it would make it safely to Vermont. Then, Adrienne jumped back into her truck to have it weighed so we could double check our numbers. Now, we have the weight of her truck on file!

About 2 months later, we received our new yarn. It was as beautiful as imagined. As always Green Mountain Spinnery did a lovely job. We began the process of scouring, mordanting, and dyeing the yarn.

One of the most compelling parts of this yarn, is the way the natural, brown-silver wool appears every so often, almost like a grey vein running through white granite. As a natural dyer, I adore overdyeing natural colored fleece because of the depth and nuances it adds to the naturally dyed color. This yarn is 300 yards to 50 grams, making a lightweight yarn which can be knit into a variety of things from wraps to lightweight sweaters.

It has been so exciting to see this yarn come to life! I hope you will try it out and let me know what you think! You can find Flock here.



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Holiday Stitch Exchange: Tasa's Sister Cowl

Posted by AVFKW Staff on December 04, 2014 0 Comments

Today's post is about a little cowl I made for my sister for the upcoming holidays! (Hopefully she's not reading this post.) Where she lives, the winters are much colder than the ones we enjoy here in the Bay Area. So when I make things for her I try to take that into account and make something that is beautiful, fashionable, and practical. This cowl is made from one skein of Shibui Silk Cloud and one skein of Shibui Maai, held together, and I'm looking forward to giving it to her.

Maai is Shibui's new chainette yarn, and I am in love with the feel and texture of it. I recently learned that Shibui yarns are designed to be knit together into different fabrics, so it's no wonder that the Maai and the Silk Cloud compliment each other so well. The tiny strand of silk and mohair in Silk Cloud creates a beautiful halo around the springy chainette without weighing it down or overpowering it.  

THE SISTER COWL

Finished Measurements:
23" circumference

Yarn:
Shibui Silk Cloud (60% mohair, 40% silk; 330 yds / 25 g) Ash or color of your choice, 1 skein
Shibui Maai (70% baby alpaca and 30% fine merino; 175 yds / 50 g) Ash or color of your choice, 1 skein

Needle:
One US 6 (4mm) 16" circular needle

Gauge:
24 stitches & 34 rows / 4" square in 2x2 rib pattern

Notions:
Stitch marker, tapestry needle

Abbreviations:
K - knit
P - purl 

Directions 

Holding yarns together, cast on 132 st in tubular cast on. I used Ysolda's tutorial here to learn this new-to-me cast on. 

Join to work in round, being careful not to twist. Place marker.

Beginning ribbing section:

Round 1: [K2, P2] to end.

Repeat Round 1 for 14 more rounds (15 rounds total). 

Middle ribbing pattern:

*Round 2: [P2, K2] to end.

Repeat Round 2 for 2 more rounds (3 rounds total).

Round 3: [K2, P2] to end.

Repeat Round 3 for 9 more rounds (10 rounds total).

Repeat from * 2 more times.

Round 4: [P2, K2] to end.

Repeat Round 4 for 2 more rounds (3 rounds total).

Ending ribbing section:

Round 5: [K2, P2] to end.

Repeat Round 5 for 14 more rounds (15 rounds total). 

Bind off using an i-cord bind-off.

Today only -- receive 15% off the supplies to make The Sister Cowl! You can stop by the shop today (open 11-6pm), call (510-595-verb), or email (info@averbforkeepingwarm). We are happy to ship! 

Happy knitting!

Tasa

 

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Holiday Stitch Exchange: Top 10 Gifts for Knitters & Knitting Enthusiasts

Posted by AVFKW Staff on December 04, 2014 0 Comments

I love the holidays.  For me, this time of year consists of pine needles, cinnamon, knitting in front of the fire, and hunting down the perfect gift for my family and friends.  When Kristine invited me to curate this list I had no trouble picking out an assortment of notions, patterns, & projects from my favorites here at Verb.  This list is sure to give you great gift ideas for the fiber-lovers in your life, yourself included!

The first two items on my list go hand in hand.  Knitter's Block by Cocoknits consists of 9 (small) or 18 (large), 12" foam blockers that piece together like a puzzle for ultimate finishing versatility.  The kit includes the foam blockers, a tin of pins, a 100% cotton pressing cloth, and instructions all put together in a reusable bag!  Combine that with any scent of Verb's favorite wool wash, Eucalan, and you've got a kit together that will help block shawls, sweaters, and the like!  And for your friend who mentions wanting to knit every time they see you working on a project, our Knitting 101 Kit is perfect.  Quince & Co. Puffin, needles, and our Easy Garter Mitts pattern is the perfect inspiration to get your friend started.  Include my favorite beginning technique book, The Stitch Encyclopedia of Knitting, and you've got a perfect introduction kit!

If you're looking wrap up some FOs under the tree or beside the menorah this year, Kristine's Wayzata hat is perfect.  Knit with Malabrigo Rasta, this classic ear flap hat is great for kids & adults alike, a fun, quick knit, and as much a novelty as it is practical.  And speaking of novelties, we have a new yarn from Finland called Fat & Sassy.  It gets 3 stitches for 4 inches... and think about that!  That's a big stitch!  So whether you need a fast knit or a hilarious present, Fat & Sassy is your answer.  And Verb is excited to announce that we're now carrying Knitter's Graph Paper Journal by local Bay Area artist Narangkar Glover. This is a great gift for anyone who does knitwear design or enjoys personalizing color work charts.

Madder is a brand new collection of patterns by Carrie Bostick Hoge. The patterns focus on four unique stitch patterns and are knit with Quince & Co. yarns.  The book has beautiful photography, clear instruction, and a wonderful philosophy I would love to give or receive.  Project bags are a go to for me whether or not my gift recipient is a knitter or not.  They can be used to hold many things: projects, toiletries, gifts!  Jen Hewett's bags are screen printed by hand in her San Francisco studio on beautiful linen and are closed up with a zipper.  When I'm working on a beautiful knitting project, I know having somewhere beautiful to keep it makes all the difference.  ;)  And last, but most  certainly not least, I have Ysolda Teague's Marin shawl knit out of our yarn, Annapurna.  Only taking one skein, this shawl is a pleasure to make and will stop people in their tracks. The yarn is naturally dyed in our in-house dye studio, boasts of a fiber content consisting of 80% superwash Merino, 10% cashmere, & 10% nylon.  It's a delight to work with and combination of yarn and pattern will make any knitter in your life extremely happy.

So, without further ado...

Top 10 Gifts for Knitters & Knitting Enthusiasts

1. Knitter's Block by Cocoknits

2. Eucalan

3. Knitting 101 Kit

4. Stitch Encyclopedia of Knitting

5. Malabrigo Rasta + Wayzata Hat Pattern

6. Fat & Sassy Merino

7. Knitter's Graph Paper Journal

8. Madder by Carrie Bostick Hoge

9. Project Bags by Jen Hewett

10. A Verb For Keeping Warm's naturally dyed yarn: Annapurna (enter coupon code: topknittinggifts) + Ysolda's Marin

     

    Today only, all of the above listed gifts are 15% off.

    To purchase these gifts, and receive the discount either stop by the shop today (open 10-6pm), call (510-595-verb), or email (info@averbforkeepingwarm). We are happy to ship!

     

    Happy Holidays,

    Mckenzie

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    Holiday Stitch Exchange: Dyeing with Mushrooms

    Posted by Kristine Vejar on December 03, 2014 1 Comment

    Hi Everyone! Today on the blog, Adrienne and I will teach you about dyeing with mushrooms!

    I like mushrooms. Adrienne loves mushrooms. This is her favorite time of year - because here in California, it rains, and mushrooms like rain. The day after it rains is one of the best times to go mushroom hunting.This is when the mushrooms start peeking their heads out from the forest floor.

    The first important thing when deciding to forage for mushrooms is to know that mushrooms can be toxic if digested. This means if you are with small children or dog do not let them touch or eat the mushrooms. It is important to wash your hands after handling mushrooms. Always use pots and vessels which are dedicated to the dyeing process - do not use these vessels to cook food. 

    There are specific mushrooms which are very good for natural dyeing. Dorothy Beebee and Arleen Rainis Bessette and Alan E. Bessette have done quite a bit of research on dyeing with mushrooms. Their books names' are Mushrooms for Color and The Rainbow Beneath My Feet  and are well worth checking out - as they will contain information on how to dye with mushrooms and also how to identify mushrooms good for dyeing.

    The recipe we will teach you today is for a mushroom called Phaeolus schweinitzii. This mushroom is also known as "Dyer's Polypore". We are using it today because it is fairly easy for us to find. And, it is found in many places across North America - so we think it could be easy for you to find too. This mushroom gives a beautiful range of color ranging from beige, gold, dark brownish orange, and brown. The color usually depends on the freshness, quantity, and amount of water you put into your dye pot. If you take good notes - as to where you found the mushroom, what time of year it is found, what size it is, and its weight - there is a greater chance you will be able to understand the color of dye you achieve.

     

    The Dyer's Polypore hides at the base of trees or decaying wood, especially conifers. The cap of the mushroom can be anywhere from 1-1/2" - 10" wide.  It usually has a fan of fused caps that are concentric in growth. It has many tubes instead of gills for dropping spores.

    You can make all the colors of the rainbow just using mushrooms. Sometimes the mushrooms need a little help with pH modifiers or different mordants. This recipe is just the beginning of what could be quite an extensive research project - as it has been for us over the past five years.

    RECIPE:

    In order to achieve a rich color which is colorfast the yarn or fabric must first be mordanted. In this recipe, we are focusing on wool and silk fibers. To mordant these types of fiber, we use aluminum potassium sulfate. 1 tablespoon per 100g of goods to be dyed.

    Recipe for mordanting:

    Add enough water to a stock pot to cover the goods you intend to mordant.

    Dissolve mordant in hot water. Add to water in stock pot.

    Add goods to be dyed.

    Add your yarn and heat. Over the course of a half hour bring temperature to 180 degrees F. Keep at this temperature for 60 minutes.

    After 60 minutes, turn off heat source and let yarn cool down naturally to room temperature. Now proceed to dyeing.

    Recipe for dyeing:

    The ratio of mushroom to yarn should be 2:1 - in other words, if your mushroom weighs 200g, you will get a color similar to the one we have obtained in this recipe if your yarn or fabric weighs 100g.

    First crumble your mushroom into a non-reactive stock pot.

    Fill the stock pot with tap water to just cover the mushroom.

    Place the stock pot with cover and simmer for 1 hour.

    Let cool down and break apart further.

    Let the mushroom soak overnight to extract the most amount of dye.

    The next day heat again for another hour.

    Then strain the dye liquid from the crumbled mushroom.

    Then stain again.

    Put strained water back in stock pot.

    Add your yarn and heat. Over the course of a half hour bring temperature to 180 degrees F. Keep at this temperature for 45 minutes.

    After 45 minutes, turn off heat and let yarn cool down naturally to room temperature.

    Wash by hand with gentle dish soap and water, and line dry. 

    Voila! Here's the dyed skein of Creating - our superwash Merino, fingering weight, base yarn we created with Dyer's Polypore.

    We've wanted to discuss dyeing with mushrooms on the blog and adding mushroom dyed yarn to the Verb online store for quite some time - but the release of Ysolda's newest shawl pattern, Dovana, really motivated us to get going! This shawl is part of Ysolda's series of patterns called Knitworthy - all fun, sweet patterns which would make great gifts! We love it - and she used one skein of Verb's base Creating - which we dyed with her the first time she visited Verb. See the skeins of mushroom dyed Creating here.

    And to inspire you to try more mushrooms in the dyepot, we will leave you with this one last image - this is Laetiporus sulphureus, and a silk scarf which has been dyed with it, resulting in a light apricot color.


    Thanks for reading!
    Kristine and Adrienne

    ------

    Tomorrow on Holiday Stitch Exchange - I give you a list of my top 10 gifts for natural dyers, wannabe natural dyers, and appreciators of natural dyes!

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    Holiday Stitch Exchange: Marshmallow Cowl

    Posted by Kristine Vejar on December 01, 2014 1 Comment

    A few weeks back, I was in my favorite clothing boutique and a knit wrap caught my eye. While it looked like ribbing on first glance, as I held it, and examined the stitch pattern, there was something different about it. The "ribbing" seemed deeper, more puffy. And there was what looked liked a set of stitches slanting beneath the main stitches. This wrap was knit loosely, so the stitches were very evident. After doing a bit of research, I came to learn this is the famous brioche stitch pattern. While at first I felt confused when reading the directions for this stitch pattern, once learned, it was very easy - and quite fun! Knitting the brioche pattern is kind of like playing scales on the piano - up down, front back. The trick is to get into the pattern of knitting brioche - and don't over think it.

    As we were dyeing our new chunky yarn, Big Sky, I kept squishing it - and dreaming of it knit in brioche. I decided to make a simple brioche cowl pattern. It is full of squish and poof - and is kind of like a marshmallow! So here, I present The Marshmallow Cowl...(cast-on or queue)

    THE MARSHMALLOW COWL

    Finished Measurements
    28” circumference

    Yarn
    A Verb for Keeping Warm Big Sky (100% targhee wool; 160 yards / 100g), lighthouse or color of your choice, 1 skein

    Needles
    One US 11 (8.0 mm) 24in circular needle

    Gauge
    7 1/2
    stitches and 12 rows / 4" in brioche stitch pattern

    Notions
    stitch marker, tapestry needle

    Abbreviations
    K – Knit
    P – Purl
    SL1YO – (Slip 1 yarn over) Bring the yarn in front of the work then slip the next stitch purl-wise, bring the yarn over the needle and over the slipped stitch to the back, in position to work the following stitch.
    BRK – (Brioche knit) Knit the stitch (that was slipped in the previous row) together with its yarn-over.
    BRP – (Brioche purl) Purl the stitch (that was slipped in the previous row) together with its yarn-over.


    Directions

    Cast-on 54 stitches. Join to work in the round, careful not to twist. Place marker.

    Set-up round: (K1, SL1YO). Repeat.
    Round 1: SL1YO, BRP.
    Round 2: BRK, SL1YO

    Repeat rounds 1 and 2 until piece measures 9 1/2 inches. BO in K1, P1 ribbing.

    To finish, weave in ends and block.

    --------

    This is just a small introduction into the world of brioche knitting. There is so much more that can be done with it - like two color knitting, garments, and more!

    To learn about the brioche knitting technique, see the Craftsy classes by Nancy Marchant and Mercedes Tarasovich-Clarke. Also, Mercedes has a new book titled Brioche Chic. Lately, Stephen West has released a number of patterns which feature brioche knitting, like this one. Last week, Bristol Ivy released a large wrap called Hey, Little Songbird - which I would love to make using our alpaca / silk / cashmere yarn Floating - as the alpaca blend in this yarn drapes so beautifully when knit in the brioche stitch.

    We've been asked for pattern ideas for Big Sky, lucky us, Julie Weisenbeger of Cocoknits just released two patterns in which she used Big Sky to knit these cozy samples. Kuss, a sweet little hat, which will knit up in a blink of an eye - and the Stranded Cowl which uses one skein of Big Sky and one skein of Woolfolk's Far. I am obsessed with this pattern - it is reversible, the cowl is super soft, and it provides the perfect canvas to combine color and yarn, resulting in different textures.

    Let's look a little more closely at this stitch pattern.

    You could also make this cowl using a strand of Big Sky and Floating, Annapurna, or Even Tinier Annapurna.

    In addition to the above patterns, here are a few that would be fun to knit using Big Sky!

    Tombreck Hat Pattern by Ysolda Teague
    Cocoon Hat by La Maison Rililie
    Quincy Hat by Jared Flood
    Borough Mitts by Veronica O'Neil
    Glucksburg Cowl by Silke K
    Wolcott Cowl by Alicia Plummer

    If you have other ideas, add them in the comment section!

    On Sunday, December 7th, 2-3pm, I am giving a demo on brioche knitting. So if you would like to see brioche done in person, and to try this stitch yourself, stop on by!

    Tomorrow on the blog, we continue our Holiday Stitch Exchange! Stay tuned - lots of goodies coming your way!

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