I love a good collaboration! This another one is with my Cormo partner (Brooke Sinnes of Sincere Sheep.) Together, we made our favorite warm weather yarn.
Brooke Sinnes (Sincere Sheep) and I have enjoyed exploring our shared interest in designing and promoting yarns that use local/US resources. Our first joint venture was (and is) our shared line of Cormo yarn. In 2016-ish, we started dreaming about a U.S.-made, warm weather yarn that featured flax and wool and a touch of silk. Besides wanting to make sure that the yarn had a comfortable hand not always seen in yarns featuring flax, we also wanted it to have structural integrity, a light texture, and have a nice drape.
Originally, we had the idea of tracking down some Mexican silk and U.S. Hemp. Aaah, best laid plans . . . .
Following a lead from my sales rep, we were able ito track down the location and a small one pound sample of some Mulberry silk cocoons from central Mexico. Alas, we were unable to set up communications well enough to contract for the related village to grow enough for both their own needs and ours.
As far as U.S. Hemp goes, we started following the development of a U.S. Hemp processing facility. But while interesting progress is being made on this front, it’s still going to be some time before a quantity and quality of fiber suitable for a soft-ish hand-knitting yarn is available.
Fast forward to 2019.
I got a wonderful opportunity to do some consulting for Meridian Specialty Yarn Group in North Carolina. They wanted some help transitioning their business to a broader range of the U.S. craft yarn market -- and I wanted to design (and talk about) yarn. YEAH! (See also their online Mill House yarn shop for yarn dyers.
So, although a yarn using a North American silk and/or hemp is still in the future, we are excited to present Coastal using Shaniko wool (a new entry in U.S. traceable wool), Belgian flax (my ancestral country) and the queen of Mulberry silk from it’s native home, China.
We started with the idea that we wanted to make an all natural, warm weather yarn that was appealing in the hand for knitters and on the shelf for stores.
But why this blend of wool, silk and flax?
It’s no secret that Brooke and I specialize in dyeing wool, so you might think we included the wool because we wanted to keep our dye processes the same. And, while that is partly true, we also wanted the natural characteristics of the wool to absorb moisture. To us, that was an important feature. It was the first step in absorbing body moisture to help move it away from the skin and make it available for evaporation. It also is a good base of “soft” in the hand and to lend some loft to otherwise dense fibers. We also chose Shaniko wool because we just loved Jeanne Carver’s mission and the quality of the fiber.
The silk is a no-brainer for us. It is also soft, it provides the yarn with a sheen that is especially luxurious, AND it’s a good “evaporator.”
And the start of the show -- flax! We always knew that we wanted this yarn to have flax in it. We were trying to source a U.S. version of this fiber, but just couldn’t find any in time to make the yarn this year. An especially good “breather” flax also helps with body temperature regulation as it, too, helps with moisture evaporation. But also, because our dye methods are friendlier to protein fibers (and silk), adding the flax adds depth to the colors because flax doesn’t take up the dyes we are using as well as the wool and silk. It also adds a crispness to the hand of the yarn that is pleasant in warmer weather.
Added to the fiber mix is our choice of twist and plies. Keeping in mind the need for a crisp, but soft hand, we chose 3 plies to make a nice, strong, round-ish yarn. We also chose a moderately high twist for strength and to trap as many of the loose, soft wool fibers close to the surface of the yarn. The result? The perfect warm weather yarn!