Mercenaria Shawl pattern is out!

It has been some time since I released a pattern – and I’m really excited about this one! It was a Yarn Support Program collaboration with The Fibre Co., who sent me this luscious Canopy Fingering yarn in three shades. These purples inspired the final name of the shawl, which is a reference to the quahog shells that used to be used as gifts and currency by New England native Americans.

Mercenaria Shawl modeled in Ireland

Canopy Fingering has alpaca, merino, and bamboo rayon in it, which gives it warmth, softness, drape, a slight halo, and a little bit of silky sheen. So lovely! My idea when it was first birthed was about shells, waves, and the beach, which informed my choice of stitch patterns. These colors remind me of the striations in wampum beads and shells.

Perfect garb for a windy, rainy beach day

I knitted the original version about three years ago, when I was seeking the perfect destiny for some Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks that Rock! yarn that I’d picked up at Maryland Sheep and Wool a number of years ago. The pattern flowed off the needles, but I neglected to write it down. I even did a photo shoot near my friend’s town in Vermont, at the Von Trapp Family Lodge.

The original version, modeled at the Von Trapp Lodge

And then I did ANOTHER photo shoot in Back Cove, Maine, proving it can serve as a Man Scarf as well.

The footbridge in Back Cove, ME provided the ideal backdrop
Man scarf material

I also worked up a version in another colorway, trying to get the pattern down correctly, which has proven to be a challenge.

Beachy colors from the Verdant Gryphon

And then the final one, in Canopy Fingering, for which I sought out my former model as well as a new one, and also went in search of beaches.

The shawl is challenging because the way that the original stitch patterns were written, they did not appear to be chart-friendly. I will experiment with charting for this pattern in the coming months – because I am generally a chart lover! And should I have success, any purchaser will receive a notification that charts are available.

I hope some of you try out this pattern this summer. It can be knit in non-wooly fibers to be a lighter garment, or in two or three colors of your favorite solid or tonal sock yarn that you’ve been saving for the perfect project. If you post photos on IG, tag them with #mercenariashawl so I’ll be sure to see them and repost!

Rainbow throw #2

It is pouring rain out today, diminishing our chances of a white Christmas, and I think the weather forecast is the same for tomorrow. If we’re lucky, the sun will come out and give us a rainbow or two, but I am not confident the grey skies will fade.

Over the past week, I’ve cranked out 80% of one of my remaining holiday gifts on the knitted gift list, and shipped out gifts to family members out west possibly even on time. The only reason I’ve been able to make so much knitting progress is that I’ve been suffering from what I’ve been calling the Sinus Plague, which has also been affecting my brain. Since there always seems to be a natural slow-down at work around this time, I’ve taken advantage of my sick leave bank to care for my slow brain. All it seems to be able to handle is this repetition, and sometimes not even that!

On the left is the original throw. On the right is the new one, approaching the finish line – one color block left to go.

Ravelry page for this throw: Rainbow Throw

The yarn is originally from Ward Brook Farm in Candia, New Hampshire. My mother used to go on the annual Wool Tour around New England each fall, but now she’s moved out west. I’m fairly certain my mom’s cousin purchased this yarn the year that I went with them, and I still have a large quantity of natural brown wool that I had knitted up into a potato sack like sweater before deciding it wasn’t a flattering silhouette. My mom’s cousin willed me a lot of yarn when her rheumatoid arthritis began to seriously interfere with her knitting, these beautiful colors among them, so she is the intended recipient of this throw.

My sister found the cutest advent calendar for me this year – I haven’t had one since I was a child, but had been admiring some here and there on my travels. Yesterday’s window revealed the sheep knitting the stocking in the bottom window of the Knitting Supplies store. We visited a cute New England knitting shop in a cute New England town over Labor Day, and this reminds us both of that weekend!

Happy advent!

LYS: Ovelha Negra, Porto, Portugal

I visited this shop in late June and am only now starting to sift and catalog all my photos from my Portugal trip!  Even though I learned some Portuguese last year, I had to look up the meaning of the shop name, Ovelha Negra, in English, which is Black Sheep.

(Notice some knitter’s male partner waiting outside?? Heehee!)

The one-room shop is located in a well-trafficked area populated with other fun shops and restaurants.  Inside, I was mesmerized by all the colors and gradients lining the walls.

Because I have such a large stash, I was trying to focus on something special from this shop and/or from the region.  Ovelha Negra has several of its own yarn lines, and carries a few other commercial brands.  The shop owner shared several samples with me as I agonized over my selections, and the drape and hand of these yarns were fabulous.

The sample she showed me of Isabell Kraemer’s “A Girl’s Best Friend” in a rich goldenrod, light heather grey, and natural ivory in her “Victoria” single-ply wool yarn.  This yarn is 100% Portuguese wool, and the primary yarn in her shop that is Portugal-sourced.  The result was a substantial but not too heavy garment that looked as though the design were made for this yarn.  There is a photo of the finished object on the shop’s website, and it looks even more vibrant in person.  I was smitten, and some of this yarn would have come home with me if they had had that beautiful gold color in stock.

I’ve been thinking about designing shawls and stoles that incorporate interesting color transitions and a mix of lace and textured stitch patterns, so that was the driving force behind my selections.  This group is Amélia yarn, which is 100% merino, and I was thinking about denim / indigo shades when I selected these.


This group of Olívia shades will be some sort of experiment in light/dark of these two color families.  It is a 2-ply blend of 55% merino and 45% cotton.


And this group of Ofélia cakes was to indulge my love for pinks and greens together.  Ofélia is 100% wool from Ireland.  This yarn especially had so many colors and shades that I agonized over my choices for a Long. Time.


My somewhat extensive purchase was packaged up in this adorable tote bag!


Sharing the family stash

Over the winter I was recovering.  The past three years were stressful and traumatic for reasons I won’t go into now.  Suffice it to say, recovery for a knitter involves an awful lot of time in the kitchen or living room starting new projects.

I worked on some lace, including a feather-and-fan throw blanket, one of the few projects I picked up consistently while binge-watching whatever I could find on Amazon Prime, and knitted till it was done, unlike the pile of WIPs in my basket.  There were no seams or buttons to stymie me, so it was an easy win.

Ravelry project link

This blanket came from a batch of yarn my mom’s cousin sent me.  Like many of you, I don’t need any help collecting yarn, but I know her good taste and couldn’t refuse when she offered to send me two boxes of her stash.  There were six pairs of wool and mohair skeins, which seemed like they were destined for a specific project, but she could not recall what.  The yarn was familiar to me: we had purchased some together in New Hampshire ages ago to make these longways garter stitch scarves with fringe automatically included:


Ravelry project link

It didn’t click until I was halfway through the throw that each yarn pairing was intended for a scarf!  I have about half the yarn remaining, so maybe P will get a rainbow throw one day as well.

Most of what she sent was too fine for her to knit, since she has struggled for a long time with rheumatoid arthritis.  There were a few patterns included, so I have offered to knit some up and send them back to her, including this Cable and Lace Raglan from Willow Yarns.

The yarns from the scarf and blanket are from Ward Brook Farm in Candia, NH.  I couldn’t find a website for them, but the Seacoast Harvest Local Food Guide website says this about them:

Sheep farm with a menopausal flock of retired laid back ewes that give wool. The wool is used for spinning supplies, yarn, dyed and spun. Dyes yarn in rainbow colors – the kind you can’t get in a yarn shop.


Dyeing a little inside

The other day I attended a workshop at The Scrap Exchange, with artist Katherine Soucie, who specializes in (among other things) acid dyeing pre-consumer industrial waste.  I wasn’t sure what all that meant, but essentially we ended up with a giant pile of white nylon hosiery in various manifestations that we tied, scrunched, clamped, and otherwise threw into dye pots of all colors of the rainbow.

We learned how to mix up our dye solutions from powder and water and a little bit of Synthrapol (industrial soap), heat up our dye pots, and watch the magic happen in a no-waste method including re-using dye pots multiple times for different colors.

Fortunately other workshop attendees were experienced creative types that pulled out PVC piping and tie-dyeing techniques to produce some really interesting results!


The artist dyed a wall full of industrial waste fabric in the week leading up to the workshop and used it to create an exhibit in the Scrap Exchange’s Cameron Gallery.

I’ve been intrigued by her use of this material as fabric from which she has created amazing patchwork fabrics that have been sewn into wearable fashion.  Check out some of her fashion portfolio here.

These Days It’s Wise to Pull the Wool Over Your Eyes

Published: October 25, 2010

LONDON — The sheep grazing the newly laid pasture in London’s Savile Row, home to gentlemanly tailoring, looked, well, sheepish.

But how could this flock — or the egg-yolk yellow sheep outside Selfridges, their wool color-branded with the store — know that they were there by royal appointment?

Prince Charles, whose once-ridiculed ecological ideas now look visionary, is behind a campaign to educate people about the joys and benefits of wool. Hence the event in London this month when shepherds were dressed up for the occasion in handmade-to-measure suits from the illustrious tailors Anderson & Sheppard and Gieves & Hawkes.

Like the campaigning “real food” supporters who want consumers to be able to trace the hens that laid their eggs, the cloth for those elegant suits came from wool from Exmoor Horn sheep, in the west of England, and was produced by the appropriately named Fox Brothers, historic wool manufacturers in Somerset.

This initiative from the Prince of Wales, to act as patron to a coalition of British industry groups, is not such woolly thinking. The world has changed since the Australian Wool Corp., 40 years ago, adopted the British slogan: “There is no substitute for wool.”

Today, an entire generation, grown up with padded nylon jackets and high-tech fabric sportswear, no longer has a closet filled with woolly sweaters and traditional winter coats. Ironically, the word “fleece,” used to describe ultralight, snugly zippered tops, often has nothing to do with sheep, but is made from 100 percent polyester — though fleeces made from recycled coffee grounds and soda bottles are also on offer.

“Wool Week,” with events involving 80 brands and 400 stores across Britain, was aimed at raising the profile of wool as part of a continuing five-year effort with a dedicated Web site:

The fact that demand for wool is in decline was the spur to Prince Charles and caught the attention of wool suppliers in Australia and New Zealand.

The good news for the Prince of Wales is that fashion is on the same track. Stylish London retailers who supported the initiative with woolly window displays included Burberry, Pringle, Paul Smith, Jigsaw and Jaeger. Although the focus of the London event was men’s wear, for designers across the world, knits have taken pride of place from dedicated knitwear brands like Pringle of Scotland to the rarefied couture house of Chanel.

Far from spurning the natural and sustainable material in favor of space-age, man-made fabrics, a current urge for authenticity has brought wool back to the heartland of winter wear.

The autumn collections were filled with chunky sweaters and cardigans, thick knitted coats and even socks. Once a kiss of death to any fashionable outfit, ankle-high socks were hot at Prada, with knee-high knits shown in Top Shop’s Unique collection.

The “glamorization” of knitwear is only half the story.

It has been decades since wool came up from the country and into the city on fashionable backs. Elsa Schiaparelli’s trompe l’oeil sweaters, with knitted-in bows, collars and scarves, conquered Paris high society back in the 1920s.

Since then, knitwear has been in and out of fashion — reaching one of its peaks in the 1970s, when the hippie-deluxe style of Bill Gibb and Missoni conquered the world, and when arts and crafts in California offered artistry in wool.

It may be significant that this new millennium is another period when support for craftsmanship and natural materials has grown from a philosophy that is against global overreach and fast fashion.

The ever-increasing green spirit has made fashionable the essence of wool: that the fibre has beneficial qualities; that the material is biodegradable and sustainable. Wool has therefore become a “good thing” — as well as a pleasure to wear and a perennial challenge for the inventors of style.