Elizabeth Street

Swatch Stories: Wheely Wooly Farm Shetland Wool

Creative InspirationLiz TubmanComment

Happy November!  I've been thinking about the idea for this new column I'm introducing to you today for months.  It seems especially appropriate coming on the heels of #slowfashionoctober with discussions about known-origin clothing, fabric, and yarn.  Ever since I discovered yarn like Brooklyn Tweed and Quince and Co, both proudly producing US-sourced yarns, I wanted more.  I fell in love with this new world of beautiful, high quality yarn I was slowly discovering thanks to blogs and podcasts like Woolful and the Fringe Association.  As I starting thinking about designing, I knew finding and supporting small batch US farmers, dyers, and spinners was something really important to me.  As a maker myself, I want to support other makers who put all of their love and effort into creating the materials I pour my heart into as well.  Out of all these thoughts came this idea to feature a different small batch, locally sourced yarn every month.  I wanted to explore, research, and swatch these yarns to build up my own knowledge as a knitter and designer, but also to simply share and promote these people and their work!  

I'm beyond excited to start this new column with a yarn that's raised, sheared, spun, and dyed right here in my home state of Wisconsin, 30-ish miles from my home: Wheely Wooly Farm's Shetland wool.

Where does the yarn come from?

This yarn comes directly from Wheely Wooly Farm near Omro in east central Wisconsin.  I came across it at my local farmer's market this summer for the first time and was delighted to take a couple skeins home with me.  I got to chat a little with one of the owners of the farm and her daughter, who were just delightful and so friendly and excited to share their yarn.  Each skein is labeled with the name of the sheep the yarn came from (my skeins came from Misty and Honey!) - this is about as known-origin as you can get.  Wheely Wooly Farm cleans and spins the wool as well as dyes some of the skeins.  These folks do it all! 

What does the yarn feel and look like?

Wheely Wooly Farm raises purebred Shetland sheep (along with other animals), so the yarn is beautifully strong, yet still soft.  I really loved knitting up the natural, un-dyed wool from Honey.  It's a light to medium worsted weight that's easy to work it.  The yarn is definitely more "rustic" than other larger, commercial wool companies; you'll definitely find a few bits of grass and things here and there, but that just means it came from a happy sheep.  The color has a beautiful naturally variegated quality to it, with subtle shifts from ivory to tan to an almost brownish shade.  The hand-dyed skeins are lovely, too with a bit heavier weight, more like an aran yarn.  

What kind of pattern or stitch would work best with this yarn? 

This yarn is so beautiful on its own, and I really wanted to find a pattern that would let it "breathe" and let the rustic, hand-spun nature shine through.  I ended up knitting a shawl pattern that features loose gauge lace  and a garter stitch border and it's absolutely perfect.  The Honey is gorgeous and holds the lace pattern so well while showing off the natural color variations.  The hand-dyed wool from Misty is a really fun punch of color that's featured in the simple garter border.  

Yarn company: Wheely Wooly Farm

Fiber content: 100% Shetland wool

Swatch info: size US 6; 2in = 9 sts and 12 rows in stockinette stitch (after blocking)

Visit Wheely Wooly Farm's blog to read more about their farm and flock or to email about ordering some yarn for yourself!  The Appleton farmer's market (where I purchased my skeins) has moved inside for the season, but you can contact the farm about any inventory they might have left!