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.

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!

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).


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.

Just a few things in the basket…

The gloves are from a pattern in the Winter 2012 issue of ‘Knitting Traditions’. I modified the left palm to have a heart and monogram and turned the pearl-stitch ‘ring’ into a spiral knitted in green.

When I was in Texas this last Autumn, my mother gave me the gift of a spinning workshop at the Kid and Ewe wool show in Borne. It was loads of fun and I learned how to spin (a little bit) but haven’t had much time to practice since I got back. Before Christmas I spent most of my ‘wool time’ making these gloves for my husband (about which he is beyond happy):

Meanwhile, my bags of ‘fluff’ and spindle were languishing in the project pile. So, yesterday I had the luxury of sitting by the fire for half a day spinning and I managed to come up with a little ball of brown yarn which, together with the ivory coloured yarn I spun at the workshop and some blue that my mother made and sent me last year, I decided to work into a cozy collar. It’s almost finished so I’ll post a picture soon. Meanwhile, my little girl is photo crazy and took 10 pictures of ‘mamma spinning’ of which I found two that are in focus! Meanwhile, if you haven’t seen what fabulous fiber art my mother does, go take a peek at her blog http://sarazmuz.blogspot.it.

 I’m excited to say that I’ve also found a local wool supplier for both fluff and un-dyed local wools in nearby Biella where they are working to save the traditional local wool industry. I wish they had more than the title in English but the pictures are pretty!
Biella The Wool Company

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