The yarns of Ensemble 2017

Posted on 3 CommentsPosted in Bare Naked Wools, yarn and dyeing

Each time we release a new Ensemble collection, we spend a lot of time considering which yarns could be substituted for which patterns. While at first glance it might appear that a dk is equal to another dk, or a worsted to another worsted, the unique nature of how we make Bare Naked Wools’ yarns actually makes the process a bit more in-depth. Gauge across the board translates well from yarn to yarn in our lineup, but each yarn creates a unique fabric all its own.

We thought that before launching into another week of patterns (most specifically, the sweater patterns we know you have been waiting on), it would be good to discuss how the yarns develop and influence the garments in which they are featured. We’ll start with three and add some more after the next round of pattern releases.

Kent (DK & Worsted)

Kent, in both weights, made a lot of appearances in this year’s Ensemble. You might even say that it’s “having a moment” with our designers. This two ply blends Merino and Romney wools – one for softness and squishability, the other for shine, strength, and enhanced stitch character. When working in Kent, you know that what you make will last and look beautiful for a long time. The wide range of colors available, from creamy white to dark chocolate brown, made Kent a surprise favorite for colorwork in patterns like those from the Snowy Evening Woods set. It was also featured heavily in garments, including Anne’s extensive Herringweave pattern and in upcoming Minato. One of our favorite features of Kent is it’s chameleon-like ability to work wonderfully on a wide range of needle sizes. Kent DK can be used as a light worsted, dk, or sport, while Kent Worsted can fill out aran or knit at a tidy, tighter DK gauge.

Cabecou (Lace and Sport)

The first release of our collection, Volta, had us sold out of some colors in Cabecou Sport in no time flat. Just as beautiful in real life as in photos, Cabecou has a richness and shine to it from the mohair content. This yarn is relaxed, with drape that enhances shawls and results in effortless-looking, high-quality garments. This yarn also blended surprisingly well with Kent DK in Urbanza. While some of our other wools might seem to heavy for warmer climates, Cabecou’s unique blend of mohair and wool allows for larger than average gauge. This versatility allows Cabecou to be knit with more open space, resulting in lighter garments that allow the halo to lift from the finished fabric. While it’s a joy to knit with this yarn, the true joy comes with repeated wear – Cabecou garments actually look better with time as the halo can fully develop.

Better Breakfast (Fingering, DK, Worsted) 

The yarn that started it all. Better Breakfast was our first Bare Naked Wools yarn, introduced in our very first club. Spun up on the dream that you, our dear readers and followers and clubbies, might want a yarn that was as true to the fiber as possible, without alteration or interference. This yarn has a wonderful range of color due to the content – local Ohio de-haired alpaca, blended with soft Merino wool. Paired with multiple plies and a tight spin, this yarn is everything knitters dream of: softness, durability, and a squishy hand that even makes knitting swatches pleasurable! Available in multiple weights, this yarn was featured throughout this year’s Ensemble collection, in accessories like the Minstrel Shawl or Abri Hat and Cowl to the gorgeous Rocky Fork Pullover; designers just love its velvety depth.

We hope that you’re enjoying Ensemble as much as we are this year, and will try some of the patterns in the yarns for which they were intended, but also experiment and step outside of the box. We encourage your substitutions – our yarns are created to meet the needs of knitters through the creation of soft and luxurious garments. No chemicals, dyes, or harsh processing, so the resulting fabrics are durable and give you the true character of the fiber.

As always, our yarns come from animals that are loved and doted on, and our mills understand and appreciate their materials. Each yarn is carefully constructed and much thought is put into spin, hand, and content. For knitters, by knitters!

 

Yarn Close Up: Kent

Posted on 8 CommentsPosted in Bare Naked Wools, projects, yarn and dyeing

Around this time of year, I find myself reaching towards the DK and Worsted weight yarns more than any other. While I enjoy lighter weight yarns year round (and you know that Anne does), I think that there’s something about the chilly weather hitting the Northern Hemisphere that makes me want to knit with something warm, wooly, and a little bit thick. During a recent visit to the Bare Naked Wools headquarters in Canton, OH, I found myself being drawn to Kent, which luckily happens to come in both of these weights. There’s something about the way this yarn is plied that just keeps me enthralled, and today, I’m going to explore the why of it a little more.

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ANATOMY OF A YARN

Kent’s worsted and dk structures are more or less the same. The fiber is a blend of 60% Merino wool and 40% Romney. You might know about Merino – most knitters do – but Romney is often mistakenly classified as a ‘rug wool’ or sadly labeled as ‘scratchy’. It’s true that some Romney wools are scratchy, but not the one in this blend. I honestly couldn’t have told you it was Romney from first touch. Did you know that when Romney wools are dyed, they lose some of their inherent softness? Even high quality Romney feels like a totally different fiber when it’s been dyed by the best of the best. You really haven’t experienced this wool until you’ve felt it in a near-natural state (like Kent!).

The yardage is great on this yarn – 220 yards on the Worsted, and 300 yards for our DK. One of the things we always like to stress to anyone buying Bare Naked Wools is that our yardage often stretches a bit further than your average skein, given that each of the yarns can be knit at many different gauges. You could try the worsted in an aran weight gauge, for instance, or bring the DK down for an incredibly lofty Sport weight feel. That’s why we show a wider range of needle recommendations, too. (8 – 10 US needle for the worsted, and anywhere from a 3 – 7 for the DK!)

Kent is a two ply, and one of the squishiest two plies I’ve ever used — the plies nestle up against each other and when the swatch (or garment) is washed, fill up the empty space in a beautiful way. Because Romney is a longwool, it adds luster and shine to the supremely soft Merino, and adds a bit of drape to the finished fabric.

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SWATCHING

Like all Bare Naked Wools, our Kent benefits from a nice long soak in warm (or hot) water with a bit of wool wash (read how to make your own here.) Wool goes through a lot before it gets to you, and while we skip many portions of that process in favor of a more natural texture in our yarns, each skein has still sat on mill floors, been through spinning machines that likely deposited a bit of oil onto the yarn, and has been handled, then stored in plastic bags until it was shipped to you. It’s not that the skeins are dirty, in the same way that you aren’t necessarily dirty after a long trip, but don’t you — and your yarn — deserve a bit of freshening up time before you’re ready to be judged by someone new?

Anne recommends waiting until your hot water is completely cool before taking your swatches out of the bath, and then letting them soak again for a similar amount of time (no swishing needed) if your first bath is at all cloudy or tinted. After they’re removed, roll them out in a clean towel and squish some of the excess water from them, then vigorously ‘pop’ the swatch from all directions to really help those fibers bloom. Ever wonder why so many top-tier designers like to knit sweaters in pieces? It allows this type of movement of washed garments in a manageable way before they’re pinned out to dry in the correct measurements. I found that my swatches for Bloch Ness ended up telling me I needed to go down another needle size — something I never would have known without this crucial step.

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PROJECT PROPOSALS

Swatches completed, my first cast on for 2017 will be Anne’s Bloch Ness sweater. I’m knitting a size up to give myself a roomy, oversized fit. We’ll be recommending some of our favorite Kent patterns on social media this week, so be sure to follow along on our Facebook page or Instagram. The newest Ensemble, due to be released later this month, will also feature a few patterns in this deliciously springy wool.

In the meantime, if you’re searching your Ravelry queues for a new project, we can’t recommend Kent enough for anything that has a massive quantity of stockinette or knit-purl textured stitches or could use a bit of spring. While this yarn does do well with cables, lace, and everything in between, I’ve personally found that one of my favorite applications is mindless knitting – the pleasure of feeling this yarn between your fingers is enough to make any project more interesting.

Now excuse me, I have a sweater to knit!

first course

Posted on 2 CommentsPosted in Bare Naked Wools, lace/shawls, patterns, projects, yarn and dyeing

Pairings July 2016

We are so excited to finally reveal all of the details around our first shipment of Pairings, the club we’re running through Bare Naked Wools over the next few months. Pairings ships in July, September, November and January, and each shipment is centered around the idea that knitting and eating have a lot in common. These two activities connect us through the process of making to other people around us, and allow us to share skills we’ve developed with those who will best appreciate them.

The first shipment of Pairings is our appetizer course. Shipped out July 17th, this round centered around the perfect summer food – salads. Our partner chef, Katharine Wainwright,  shared the knowledge that a great salad can be built off of a particularly well thought-out dressing. Katharine shared her take on a traditional Green Goddess dressing and gave expert guidance on how to build the salad of your dreams (including a clever chart I will certainly be making use of on a regular basis!)

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A great salad is bright, refreshing, and celebrates the bounty of the season in which it is constructed and devoured. Anne and Erica approached the yarn for this round of club in much the same way. For the Bare Naked Wools selection this round, they used Hempshaugh Fingering, a unique blend of hemp, silk, and just a touch of merino wool. This yarn has a great, lightweight hand, making it perfect for warm weather knitting. In the dappled greys of Buckwheat, this hearty selection paired beautifully with the shine and texture from the featured dyer, Dragonfly Fibers. Endive, a citron shade reminiscent of it’s crisp namesake, is dyed on Dragonfly’s 100% tussah silk base, Rustic Silk.

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Like the best salads, Anne’s pattern cleverly combines seemingly different ingredients — lace, colored stripes, and textured stitches — into a knit that is both captivating and gratifyingly speedy. A slinky pi style shawl with a delicately ruffled edge that mimics the undulating edges of lettuce, this project changes texture every few inches, so you won’t get bored (and before you know it, you’ll be at the bind off edge!) For those of you concerned with finishing projects as they come in, this is a great way to start — several club members have already finished knitting only a few weeks in.

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I am so excited to see what’s in the next round. I think my favorite part about this club is that each shipment is paired with a packet of information — including Anne’s thoughts on design and yarn choice, followed by chef Katharine Wainwright’s delicious recipe and thought process on the cooking portion, a selection of delicious beverage selections and recipes (cocktails, mocktails, wine, beer, or non-alcoholic choices are all included), and then the pattern. Pairings is so much more than a yarn club! To ask questions or see what members are saying about this shipment, be sure to check out our Ravelry group.

Pairings with a Partner: the joys of joining with a friend

Posted on 2 CommentsPosted in Bare Naked Wools, food and garden, patterns, projects, yarn and dyeing

While the digital age has provided us with an outlet for connecting with other crafters in a social way, we also love the tactile, emotional happiness we get from attending a local knit night or knitting with a close friend. This is very similar to the feeling we get when cooking for family or an intimate group of neighbors. Pairings Club, our latest offering, really gets to the root of what makes group dinners and knitting so wonderful: the community of making and sharing.

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Each Pairings Club subscription features two yarns. One from Bare Naked Wools — a familiar friend. The other, from a surprise dyer — an unexpected, but welcome guest. Pairings also takes this a step further and adds recommended patterns and recipes that partner well with the yarns. While it’s certainly possible to work your way through the club on your own or with interaction in our Ravelry group, we’d love to think that it might connect knitters close at home, too. Here are a few ideas:

Join with your local knitting group. Sign up together for your own subscriptions and meet up each time a new one is delivered to try the recipe together. Who knows — this could result in a future soup swap, supper club, or cookie exchange!

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Join with a local friend. Even if they don’t knit, many of the yarns we’re including are great for learning on, and this is a great reason to get together. Have your packages delivered each to the other’s house to increase the chances that you’ll open them together.

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Join with a family member. If you’re lucky enough to have another knitter in your family, join together and race to finish the project. Open the packages together and think about how you can incorporate the recipe into that week’s family meals. Cook together, knit together, and celebrate the time you’re spending connecting.

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Join across the globe. Many Ravelry users form friendships that span countries and continents away. You may not get to see each other often, but joining a club is a great way to feel connected even when you’re not. Open your packages together online using Facetime or Skype, and form your own far away knit-nights.

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Of course, our Ravelry group is always open to any and all members, and the community aspect there is extraordinary, too. We’re looking forward to celebrating your successes, hearing your recipe reviews, and chatting about when the next shipment has arrived! Find the group here and say hello.