I have built up a network of sheep breeders and farmers during the time I have been spinning. One is gentleman in Maine who I found through a homesteading and country life message board. He had a small flock of Shetlands that he kept primarily for meat. They were sheared every spring and his shearer would take a fleece or two and the other 5 or 6 would go in his shed. I figured it would be much more productive if the other fleeces went into MY shed, so we struck up a deal where I would buy his whole clip every year.
This turned out to be a great arrangement, because the wool was fabulous. Typically, there would be two moorits, two grays, and one white, with an occasional one or two others. One of the gray ones became my all-time favorite fleece to spin.
This past spring, the farmer informed me that as the Shetlands were getting old, he had gotten rid of all but one and replaced them with white Corriedale crossbreeds and would I like to take a chance on those fleeces? Well, I never met a fleece I didn’t like, so I took him up on the offer and bought the last of the colored Shetlands along with 3 white crosses.
Having become adventurous enough to do some dyeing, and finding that the white fleeces were quite large, I immediately washed and dyed one. I was after a light blue color and used the standard blue from Rit Dye, but only a small amount. The results were perfect – sort of a light denim blue.
I then chopped up a couple of odd skeins of primarily orange, yellow, and tan and mixed the pieces in with the blue wool. This was then mailed to Spinderella’s to be carded into a batch of custom thrums. See the posting, Happy New Year!, for a look at the resulting roving and a completed skein of yarn.
The skein had over 250 yards on it. I wound it into a cake and set out to make socks for the farmer who had kindly provided the wool. Although the yarn is probably a little heavier, I used Size 2 needles (Size 4 probably would have been more appropriate). But I wanted a heavier, denser fabric. Remember, the poor guy is up in Maine and goes out early in the morning to feed his animals. Heavy wool socks are a plus.
I’m using the Classic Sock pattern from Yankee Knitter Designs. I love this one. It is the one I learned to knit socks on. Cast on 64 stitches and knit about 3 inches of K1, P1 roving, then switch to K3, P1. Because the socks are heavy and the gauge is a little big, I altered the pattern slightly with some decreases along the center back so they won’t be baggy right above the ankle.
I’m pleased with the tweed effect. When you mix a batch of thrums, it takes a while to get the right balance. The first few batches I ever did, I didn’t put enough thrums in. The trick, I’ve found, is to put in enough that it starts to look like too much. They really blend in when carded. This, for me, is a really, really nice balance.