Wool in Italy – What’s new?

I’ve realized that I was blogging alot about knitting and wool, so I’ve moved that over to my new blog:
come take a look and find out about:
So, if you’re interested in receiving my latest knitting, spinning and wool-working news and inspirations, please stop by at Wool in Italy and click the ‘follow’ box to your right on the home page.
Meanwhile, the rest of life in Italy will keep posting here so stay tuned for recipes, art, random thoughts, gardening and other things going on at the house.
Thanks for reading and happy wool-working to you woolies out there.

Just a little bit…


Herringbone-pattern wool cuff

 You know that feeling when you just have one tiny ball left from a project, not enough to do anything but you loved the yarn and can’t bear to use it just to tie up other skeins. I invented a tiny project that was fast and fun.

I was so inspired by this amazing herringbone pattern at purlbee: 

That I had to try the stitch. It’s EASY (once you get the hang of it). 

I had just a tiny ball of The Wool Box’s PETTINATO BOSE 1/1200 left over from when I  made my current favorite hat and found that it was the perfect yarn for the stitch. I was so pleased with my sample that I added a leather button and made a wrist-warmer cuff.

With a vintage leather button
Makes a great wrist-warmer cuff

If you want to know how to make it, leave me a  note and I’ll post the pattern. 
P.S. Last Saturday I made a trip to visit Biella and The Wool Box. What an amazing place and what an incredible project…I’ll tell you more soon.

Slip-stitch Rib and the Graft: Still Spinning out of Control

Slip-stitch ribbing knit in the round with hand spun yarn.

So, I have begun the sweater I was thinking about when I wrote Norwegian Wool and the Magic Sweater  10 days ago, and my spinning has stabilized since I wrote Spinning Out (of Control) a week ago. My output of spun yarn has doubled to two-hundred yards this week and I have a good 7″ knitted. I’m in luck with this sweater both because my husband (who requested it) is slender – so I only have 36″ of ‘tube’ to knit for the body – and because I decided to knit it on U.S. #10 (6mm) needles! After working on my standard U.S. #2 (2.75mm) needles to make socks this sweater seems to be knitting up so quickly that I could finish it before the long Lombard winter actually ends.

I have learned two new techniques on this sweater. The first is the slip-stitch rib knit. I’ve found that it’s the perfect stitch to forgive the uneven quality of my different skeins of ‘beginner’s’ hand-spun yarn, the slipped stitches add density where the yarn is thin and at the same time allow enough openness to keep the thick spots from looking bulky…nice. If you don’t know this stitch, it’s easy and both the ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ sides look cool:

Row 1: K1, P1 rib until you reach the marker at the beginning of your round
Row 2: *S1 (purl-wise with yarn in back), P1* repeat these two stitches until you reach the marker
Repeat rows 1 and 2 for as long as you’d like.

The second technique is grafting. My wonderful (and insanely talented) mother, Sara, sent me this link for yarn grafting that I have adapted for my wool. Considering that both my spindle and the Andean plying that I’m doing, limits me to a maximum skein length of 50 yards, without grafting I’d have a whole lot of little ends to be worked back into the fabric. Grafting two or more skeins together has allowed me to make up much larger balls and just keep knitting. Once again, the very forgiving stitch hides the grafts well. Thanks Mom!

Turning the corner, down at the heel…

      I have been knitting my first pair of long ‘stockings’ all winter. With all of the other projects large and small in the middle, I have just now arrived at the heel and turned the corner. Fortunately, for this project I decided to knit both stockings at once so that I can’t finish one and let a year pass before I finish the other!
The pattern is the first one in Nancy Bush’s fine book “folk socks” which is a lovely resource for patterns and techniques even if, like me, you have a tendency to not be able to follow any pattern without making just a little change or like to mix the gauge and technique from one source with the textures or colours of another. 
     I did just that with the modified highland hose, mentioned in a previous post, where I combined the gauge and construction techniques of the finnish socks on page 97 (which suited my heavier yarn – The Wool Box’s Morron Bouton 2x) and the leg ribbing pattern of the highland kilt hose on page 109.
     Even with these stockings with clocks, I couldn’t resist adding the honeycomb patterned reinforcement stitch to the heel, both because it’s beautiful and because I really do wear my hand knit socks all the time!

Now, having seen how nicely the seam comes out, I have an idea swimming around in my head to make a pair of long stockings like these but with the ribbing, the seam and a textured heel and sole in a contrasting color….but first I’m going to turn the other heel and finish these stockings so that I can wear them :). 

Thanks for reading and happy Wool-works!


Spinning Out (of Control) and Fancy Socks

Questo fine di settimana ho filato oltre 100 metri di lana…
ma sto diventando più brava (vedi la differenza tra i due prima 
alla sinistra e l’ultimi alla destra)! 
Cosa devo fare con le due qualità diverse di filato?

 So I’ve been spinning with the drop spindle this weekend and managed to meet my goal of making up at least 100  meters of plied yarn…that was more than 200 meters of singles and then andean plying all 4 skeins (whew!). My only problem now is that I’m getting better. My twist is ever smoother and more consistent and I can really see the difference between the yarn I made on Saturday and the yarn I made on Sunday. But now what do I do? The skeins are really different.

Theoretically this yarn is to make a sweater for my husband who fell in love with the roving as soon as I opened the package from the Wool Box. “It’s so smooth, it’s so shiny, it’s so soft! It’s almost as beautiful as your hair,” he says. If you read the last post you’ll know why he’s partial to Norwegian wool. He wants a close-fitting, raglan-sleeve turtleneck in slip-stitch rib so I’m thinking that I might use my ‘first’ skeins for the collar, the cuffs and the 1×1 rib that I’ll be using for the bottom edge and then hope that I can try not to get any better just yet!

“mini-trecce con merlatura” queste costa/mini-treccia
ho usato su due differente paio di calzini
e credo che il ‘merli guelfi’ ai talloni e punte
sono un modo divertente
per rendere la transizione tra i colori.

Meanwhile, the sock equilibrium is changing. I’ve been making wool socks for myself for some time now and at first my husband teased me about spending weeks on a single pair…until I made some for him. “They’re soft,” he says, “they’re comfortable,” he adds, “they’re beautiful!” So, now that he’s been converted to the joy of wearing hand-knit socks, I’m trying to make up the gap. I have more than 7 pair (one that my Mother made and sent me). He has ‘only’ three. These ‘toe-up’ grey ones with mini-cable rib and ‘crenellations’ are the latest. He’s hard on his footwear so I made a slip-stitch reinforced heel (alternating the rows to get a more delicate honeycomb effect rather than straight lines). I have done the square crenellations as a colour transition technique on several pairs of socks and find it quite nice for transitioning into a rib.
The blue and white striped ‘sailor’ socks are his favorites. Made from Lanagatta’s ‘Nuova Irlanda’ knit up on U.S. #3’s; I have to say that they have stayed soft, have not pilled at all and have not shrunk or stretched a millimeter since they came off the needles a year ago.

Questi “calzini di marinaio ”
sono i preferiti del mio marito.
His fourth pair will be the Modified Highland Hose that I posted a few weeks back made with a gorgeous and very sturdy, natural tweed Morron Bouton” that is a soft un-dyed tan with tiny fuchsia, marigold, and grass-green flecks.  I’m  knitting those top down  and on 3’s though  that needle gauge is a bit tight…I managed to snap one of my bamboo needles while cabling! However, between the snug gauge and the fully-reinforced Dutch heel, I don’t suspect he’ll be wearing through them any time soon.

Thanks for stopping by to read and Happy wool-working!

Norwegian Wool and the Magic Sweater!

This beautiful sweater was made for my husband Matthew when he was an exchange student in Norway. He was 16 then and is now edging close to 50.

It’s like a magic sweater out of a fairy tale. Matthew tells a story of how he took it off at a party when he was studying at the Maryland Institute in Baltimore and when he went to get it off the pile of coats he found it had gone missing. He thought it was gone forever. Then, three years later when he had his truck packed to move back to Texas he saw it. As he passed St. Johns University on his way out of town, he saw a woman walking the other way wearing his sweater. He stopped the car, jumped out and asked her where she’d gotten it. She said she’d found it at a thrift store. He told her the story of the sweater (then only 10 years into its history) and offered to buy it from her, offered to pay any amount she asked for. She kindly gave it back and he’s had it ever since.

Now that I think about it, this sweater has survived without a single bit of darning for more than half his lifetime. The wool is still glossy; there is not a single ‘pill’ anywhere on the inside or the outside. It has moved from Norway to Texas to Maryland back to Texas and, along with Matthew, settled in Italy. Now in it’s 35th year, I have put a few reinforcing stitches at the cuffs and have noticed that the yarn is thinning around the elbows. I wash it carefully in cold water, dry it flat; despite its age, we both wear it often. It has seen me through a few cold, Lombard days when no other thing in the house could keep me from shivering. This is the kind of sweater that a knitter aspires to.

Inspired by this sweater I recently ordered some Norwegian wool (washed, carded and combed) from a local Italian wool co-op. The box arrived and I have to say it’s beautiful. The same gloss as the wool in the magic sweater. It’s a dream to spin, the staple at least as long (if not longer) than the BLF that I tried at the spinning workshop I went to last fall. It’s also about a third again less expensive than BLF (1.50 euro/100g for the Norwegian wool vs. 2.20 euro/100g for the BLF).

TOPS WOOL NORWEGIAN MOORIT BROWN from The Wool Box

Now the challenge is for me, not only to do a decent job of spinning it, but also to make it into something as beautiful and enduring as the magic sweater.