Monday, November 5, 2018

Romney Rhaine Pullover, made by me



This project feels like a precious accomplishment.  This is my first garment knit from my own pattern, using my own yarn, made from the very first fleece I washed, carded, and spun myself.  The only thing more I could have done on to make this sweater my own is to have raised the sheep, and when I'm standing there in the festival barns looking at the little smiling lambs with their curly hair and their floppy tails, I am so sorely tempted.  Sheep are so cute.  They seem very amenable.  I start to thinking, heck, a lamb is really just a puppy, isn't it?  How different can it be, really?  I kid; I'm sure it couldn't be more different, and I don't know the first thing about raising sheep.  Also, as you may recall, Doc very expertly put the kibosh on my erstwhile shepherd dreams by suggesting that we simply go to the fiber festival each year and buy two fleeces.  Well, I mean, that's genius actually, because what I really want is one very good dog who likes to nap with me and also a whole lot of yarn.  Washing, carding, spinning and knitting up a fleece is a lengthy project, but my goodness, as I've discovered, the rewards are huge.


Here's the fleece, fresh from the bath.  It's a Romney/BFL cross, from an ewe named "Rhaine"--her name was on the tag, isn't that just so lovely?  Rhaine's fleece was curly and soft and I had heard such frankly discouraging things about Romney fleeces--that they are suitable for outerwear and carpets, that they are scratchy, that they are annoying to spin--but goodness, she was just beautiful.  Soft and fluffy and just about clean already.  She was loved, I could tell.  And her fleece was almost the same color and curly-ness as my own hair, so I felt we were two peas and meant to be together.

There were 4.5 lbs of Rhaine's fleece, unwashed.  I forgot to weigh it after washing, but honestly, it was a small fraction of that.  It seemed to weigh nothing at all.  I lightly sorted it according to color--what you see here is the lightest of three grays--and then carded it (very inexpertly) on my new drum carder, letting a lot of blobs go through and learning a lot as I went, and then I spun the carded batts woolen-style, because that's the kind of spinning I like to do and the kind of yarn I like to have.  The yarn still had a lot of blobs, but it also had a lot of character, and it was so, so soft.  



I searched for a pattern and tried a few, but another thing I've learned is that when I try to fit my handspun yarn, especially one that's fairly uneven and somewhat unconventional--into a pattern written for commercial yarn, it's an exercise in frustration and futility and that when I'm using handspun yarn, it's best to make one up.  So that's what I've done here.






I followed my usual formula of drawing my idea, measuring myself, making a swatch, and doing some elementary school level arithmetic, and then just knit the thing, mostly in the car on the way to and from Rhinebeck.  This one has (as usual) a raglan yoke and extra-long sleeves, very slight a-line shaping on the body, and a tremendous voluminous close-fitting turtleneck, because those are all the things I love best in a sweater.



I really don't think I could have made anything more perfectly suited to this fiber, this knitter, and this girl who wants a warm, comfortable sweater.  I am wearing it next to my skin, next to my neck, and it is infallibly soft.  It has shine, and halo.  It is beautiful.  It is warm and cozy and comforting and more than a little bit satisfying.  It took a long time to get here, and my beginner fleece-prep efforts are far from perfect, but of course there's no reason to expect perfection from handspun yarn.  Perfection can be bought; this is made by me.

52 comments:

  1. All your work is exquisite, but this one, wow...this one is completely ethereally amazing!

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    1. Thank you so much! I love that word, "ethereally"--this one does have a fluffy bit of halo, doesn't it? :)

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  2. Spectacular in all aspects. Fit, colour, design. You did your hand spun proud!

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  3. This is like the most perfect, beautiful—indeed, heavenly—sweater ever. Surely the sheep has been honored, and her fleece elevated. As a knitter, I am still dreaming of achieving such a thing.

    I’ve only just made my first Carbeth (though I admit I am still doing a little happy dance over that). And as a shepherd (current census I think 18 after we sold this year’s lambs) I say you have made the right decision. If you do ever buy sheep, skip the whole breeding thing. Lambs are the bomb, but the psychological cost of overseeing lambing is high. Plus I still have not used one of my own fleeces. Next year, perhaps. I just got back to spinning, and there’s a little black ewe lamb...

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    1. "Surely the sheep has been honored"--Annie, that sentence makes me so happy! Thank you.

      Little black lamb fleece! Squeeeee! :)

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  4. I love your posts and everything looks wonderful. I love your idea thanks for sharing.
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  5. When I saw this in the inbox, I thought "itchy " but you say not! I am so impressed that this jumper is 100% hand made. Lovely posts and inspirational.

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    1. I thought it would be at least regular-level itchy, but it's sooooo soft. I'm so very pleased with it. :)

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  6. It is GORGEOUS!! It looks like the perfect turtleneck and I love love love how the handspun looks. Congratulations too, no small thing you have done there!

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    1. Thank you so much, Lynne! I quite love it, myself. :)

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  7. Beautiful and cozy sweater! Loved reading about your journey and that last sentence needs to be framed.

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  8. This looks completely wonderful. You are truly inspiring.

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    1. Thank you, Beth! This is lovely to hear. xoxo

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  9. What a wonderful woolly adventure, I love your sweater. I can wear wool if I have a jersey layer underneath so it must be soft if you can wear it on your neck. Sheep are a pain in the ass. I have 28 of them and they never go through the gateway you want them too!!! Jo xxx

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    1. Haha! I remember being terrified of them as a child, as they thundered, hollering, into my uncle's barn. They were so LOUD. :D

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  10. Wow, I am so impressed! You did this all by yourself! What a tremendous thing to have accomplished. A dear friend of mine raises sheep and is also an excellent cook, and between the two of you, you have done all there is to be done! She keeps one as a house pet by the way, his name is Tjoppie (little chop) and he loves to chew her furniture :)
    I also love your curly hair. Would you like to swop? Mine is dark brown, fine, dead straight and shiny.

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    1. Little Chop, the house lamb! Oh my goodness, I love that. I can so see how somebody could let that happen.

      I have always, always wanted straight, shiny hair. Oh, the products I have tried... :D

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  11. What a wonderful story and adventure into your personal unknown with a gorgeous result! Never thought you could wear it next to your skin. Is the weight difference before and after washing all lanolin, or other stuff as well?

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    1. I think the weight difference is mostly lanolin, yes. There is usually some additional dirt and hay and other general barnyard debris, but the lion's share of the weight is all that grease that gets washed away. This fleece was heavy with lanolin when I bought it, but it was otherwise especially clean--in my (limited) experience, there is almost always some disagreeable gunk to pick out, but not in this case. Rhaine had been coated (meaning she wore an actual coat, meant to keep the fleece nice) and I think very lovingly cared for. :)

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  12. All the things a sweater should be! Beautiful. <3

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  13. To me it s flawless..if this sweater was mine,I would love it till the world comes to an end plus 7 days!

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    1. Thank you so much! Yes, I think this one will be with me a long time. :)

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  14. Normally I just enjoy your ramblings by e-mail updates (and sometimes set them aside to savor later) but this deserves a huge rousing BRAVO! I envy your oneness with the fiber and am totally smitten with Catdog. Thank you for sharing your experiences!

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    1. Holly, thank you so much! Catdog is beyond irresistible, isn't she? :)

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  15. Your sweater is exquisite.
    Knitterly life goals right there! My husband also rolls his eyes at the thought of keeping sheep, although the children know that come the Zombie Apocalypse, you tuck a sheep under each arm and run!;-)
    Maybe when the children are grown then I'll have time for spinning my own yarn (if not keeping sheep!).

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    1. Haha! Your Zombie Apocalypse advice is the best advice ever! That's all I'd need, right there. :)

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  16. What a great experience, you must be thrilled with your project.
    Thank-you for sharing the story of your sweater.

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    1. This one has been extremely satisfying, yes. I wish I could wear it every day! :)

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  17. Kristen this is gorgeous! I love the look of the finished fabric. You and Rhaine did good :)

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    1. Thank you so much, Lynne! We did do good, didn't we? Aww, that makes me feel so happy... :)

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  18. This sweater does make me even more determined to take up spinning when I retire next June. So lovely - Thanks for the inspiration!

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    1. Oh, I'm so glad! You can do it, I believe in you. :)

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  19. looks amazing & beautiful, love the textures & colours throughout
    & it does look very warm
    well done
    thanx for sharing

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  20. It is stunning! I love the texture your beautiful handspun created

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    1. Thank you, my dear! Yes, I think the texture this wool made is my favorite thing about it! :)

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  21. Oh Kirsten, wow, just wow! I love knitting with Romney Marsh wool. In fact the first item I knitted (after a 30 year break) was the Knitty Fall Color Work Hat you featured on your blog in 2014 from light grey and dark grey Romney Marsh Wool that I bought at a craft fair when viisiting my daughter at University in Canterbury, Kent. Secondly I moved to the South Downs in April this year and have made friends with a group of local spinners. On Friday I am bringing home my very own Ashford spinning wheel (secondhand of course) and will be spinning Matilda who is a Herdwick/Leicester Cross. I cannot tell you how beautifully she knits up after only one washing. And keeping everything crossed I hope to have half a dozen sheep in my half acre meadow next year. I’m developing the meadow (previously amenity grass mowed short for dog agility training) into a wildflower meadow and the plan is for the sheep to arrive after the hay cut in August and stay until tupping time. There I am becoming a spinning shepherdess - a plan you played no small part in kicking off. Cheers my dear Kirsten.

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    1. My dear Sarah, this is so wonderful to hear! You are becoming a shepherdess! Heartiest congratulations to you. I hope you will enjoy many wonderful hours spinning up the lovely wool you've raised your very own self. Oh me, that sounds so dreamy...your whole story is just chock-full of words that sound dreamy to me. Thank you for all of this, lovely lady. xoxo

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