News and Blog
Every 2 months I get email from Stella Chen who represents a spinnery in China: I and many other fiber establishments here whose addresses a web crawler turns up get fiber solicitations from her. I don't buy yarn from Stella—neither superwash merino nor cashmere nor silk nor camel nor bamboo nor soy nor blends thereof—but many dyers do.
If you ordered a hand-dyed superwash merino yarn from that nice little farm in say Montana or from who-knows-where, the one that has those pretty pictures of sheep running all over, chances are very good that the yarn you bought came from Stella or from one of her resellers or from another fiber mill in China as all superwash merino yarn is produced offshore and most of it is produced in China.
Superwash merino is merino wool coated with a plastic called a polymer which is a large synthetic molecule that consists of a repeating chain of smaller synthetic units. The plastic coating makes the wool washable; but when you handle superwash merino, it feels like what it is: what you touch is a synthetic substance made from petroleum, a plastic.
Sheep are local.
I'm not into China bashing, global commerce is necessary to maintain world peace in this age of late capitalism but I still like buying local and knowing that I have something made by a neighbor and knowing too where my money went and that it might even come back to me. This knowledge comforts me when I find myself standing in line with my fellow shoppers at Walmart to buy something—probably made in China—that only they sell at a price I can afford.
Knowledge fosters better intentions.
I know, I write to you, we know; but there are others who don't know and never will know and consequently don't care and never will care and the difference between us and them is the beauty of democracy.
Polymers, wolymers, holymers, Stella doesn't care what she sells, some dyers don't care what they buy, many knitters don't care what they knit—maybe I'm quaint because I care—it must be the sheep in me.
Dear Sir or Madam:
We are one of the leading mills based in China and offer natural color yarn and natural fiber, suitable for dyeing.
Fiber & roving: cashmere, baby camel fiber and top, angora, silk etc.
Handspun yarn: Handspun Cashmere, Baby Camel, Angora, Silky Wool etc
Hand knitting yarns: silk, cashmere, baby camel, bamboo, soy, super merino, angora and organic cotton etc.
Our sock yarn: raw white, 85% super wash merino; 15% nylon
Looking forward to hearing from you.
Shakun Cashmere Spinning Co., Ltd
Add : No.77 Zhonghua West Street, Xingtai, Hebei, China
These sentences are examples of why I enjoy reading Marcel Proust: Even though his descriptions of the French aristocracy before 1914—and its twilight in the Great War—interest me, I'm not so much enthralled by what he describes as I am by how he describes it.
If I had now begun to explore, with tremors of reverence and joy the faery domain which, against all probability, had opened to me its hitherto locked approaches, this was still only in my capacity as a friend of Gilberte.
The kingdom into which I was received was itself contained within another, more mysterious still, in which Swann and his wife led their supernatural existence and towards which they made their way, after taking my hand in theirs, when they crossed the hall at the same moment as myself but in the other direction.
But soon I was to penetrate also to the heart of the Sanctuary.
For instance, Gilberte might be out when I called, but M. or Mme. Swann was at home. They would ask who had rung, and on being told that it was myself would send out to ask me to come in for a moment and talk to them, desiring me to use in one way or another, and with this or that object in view, my influence over their daughter.
I reminded myself of that letter, so complete, so convincing, which I had written to Swann only the other day, and which he had not deigned even to acknowledge.
I marvelled at the impotence of the mind, the reason and the heart to effect the least conversion, to solve a single one of those difficulties which, in the sequel, life, without one’s so much as knowing what steps it has taken, so easily unravels.
My new position as the friend of Gilberte, endowed with an excellent influence over her, entitling me now to enjoy the same favours as if, having had as a companion at some school where they had always put me at the head of my class the son of a king, I had owed to that accident the right of informal entry into the palace and to audiences in the throne-room, Swann, with an infinite benevolence and as though he were not over-burdened with glorious occupations, would make me go into his library and there let me for an hour on end respond in stammered monosyllables, timid silences broken by brief and incoherent bursts of courage, to utterances of which my emotion prevented me from understanding a single word; would shew me works of art and books which he thought likely to interest me, things as to which I had no doubt, before seeing them, that they infinitely surpassed in beauty anything that the Louvre possessed or the National Library, but at which I found it impossible to look.
At such moments I should have been grateful to Swann’s butler, had he demanded from me my watch, my tie-pin, my boots, and made me sign a deed acknowledging him as my heir: in the admirable words of a popular expression of which, as of the most famous epics, we do not know who was the author, although, like those epics, and with all deference to Wolf* and his theory, it most certainly had an author, one of those inventive, modest souls such as we come across every year, who light upon such gems as ‘putting a name to a face,’ though their own names they never let us learn, I did not know what I was doing.
*Friedrich August Wolf (1759-1824) a German philologist who held that the works attributed to Homer were written by a number of anonymous bards.
À l'ombre des jeunes filles en fleur by Marcel Proust 1918; translated as Within a Budding Grove by C. K. Scott Moncrieff 1924.
It rained almost all day yesterday and a little this afternoon. The fields need it after a 10 day dry spell.
The lambs dry out playing on the rocks as I walk through them; some lambs come up to me while others keep their distance.
We couldn't believe our eyes when this color came out of the dye bath; we'd planned to overdye almost all of this dyelot but upon seeing the hue we reversed ourselves and overdyed almost none of it, one pound I think. Never have I seen a more intense Cochineal* and the coverage along the Saxon Merino yarn is even too. It has a charm—so unusual—the color deserves to be seen as it is.
The color was dyed after an Alum and Cream of Tarter mordant at 1.75% WOF. This is a singles worsted weight: a 2 oz. skein measures 140 yd. in length. The color was dyed in a limited editions of 32 skeins.
Available from the Yarn Store.
*Cochineal is an intense red colorant (known since the Mayan times), a natural extract that comes from an insect (most natural dyes come from vegetables) that lives on the prickley pear cactus found in the southwest. It takes 10,000 bugs to make a pound of extract and that is a reason why it is the most expensive natural dye I use: currently it wholesales for $650.00 a pound. Also, the FDA approves Cochineal as a food coloring—one of the few natural dyes so approved—this creates demand to keep the price high.
Alice knit these cool mittens from our naturally dyed Saxon Merino yarn. This is the kind of knitting I like: hand done, it figures itself out as it goes along; these mittens are not from a store consequently they're priceless.
Thank you Alice for sending along the photo.
At the Fillmore East—September 23, 1970.
"Perhaps the most influential blues guitarist of all time, Albert King possessed a powerful vibrato and a stinging tone that have been often emulated, but never equaled." Watch Video »
I walked to the center of the ewe flock's 12 acre paddock; the sheep were nowhere to be seen. It was eerie. Where were they? I thought of domestic dogs gone wild driving them through the fence or of tobacco chewing rustlers herding them up a ramp onto a semi. Being unable to find something sets fly the imagination. I stopped and began to sing my sheep litany: "Cheep, cheep, jong cheep. Jong? O jong..."* certainly not as melodic as plainchant but it is a song they know well. Faintly—to my relief—I heard the "baa" of a ewe 50 yards away to the north, I walked in that direction but I couldn't see any of the sheep until I was upon them. And surprisingly it wasn't in response to me the ewe had baaed, it was to her newborn lamb.
It seems that five months ago, plus or minus a day or two, a ram jumped the fence and bred the ewe and maybe even others. I won't know how many new lambs I have until the ewes eat the grass down; then I can see the flock as a whole and get a better count.
The lamb was healthy—the ewes have plenty to eat—mother is making ample milk and is quite attentive to her baby.
*Sheep, sheep, young sheep...
Two days later, we find the newborn lamb in question; and in question he is: this is the first time he's seen a human, strange beings we must be to his fresh eyes.
I took this photo with the camera of my iPhone as I walked through the flock on this 97° day; the sheep were in the shade of a tree—they'd eaten the understory—where they camp on hot afternoons.
Blessedly there was a good breeze blowing that kept everyone cool.
Thanks to everybody who responded to my question about which yarn photo they preferred in the ...Focus Group Lottery. (see the comments) The results were 11 for the new photos and 6 for the old photos; some of you said you liked both, so both votes were counted, one for the new and one for the old.
Because I questioned the photos I guess I was one of those who voted for both, but I didn't want a cluttered photo and didn't know how to cleanly shoot the yarn showing both views: too much information is the same as not enough.
I will go with the new, close-up photos; plus it is faster to set up the shot and that is a large consideration: to try to keep the photography in pace with the yarn we dye. We have more colors available at the stand than we're able to offer from the website.
I promised a lottery and below you see the hat ready to be drawn from, I feel like a presenter at the Oscars. "And the winner is Kathy" who voted for both. I will send Kathy a skein of our Undyed 2 ply Sport Saxon Merino Yarn, the same yarn that Clara Parkes reviewed in Knitters Review.
I shipped my first garlic of the year today and thought I should enclose a little note.
Thank you for the purchase of garlic from Catskill Merino.
It is a porcelain variety called German White. It was grown with sun and rain from the sky in soil fertilized with aged sheep manure and weeded by hand. The seed was certified organic and was planted by hand; no herbicides, pesticides or chemical fertilizers were used on the crop or on the ground where it grew.
The heads have not been irradiated or treated (killed) to extend their shelf life as has been done to the garlic you find in supermarkets. Catskill Merino Garlic is viable; plant a clove outside in October and harvest a head in July.
Also the garlic is drying, take it from the bag and spread it out so it can get air; as it dries it gets stronger.
Available from the Garlic Store.
We added more Indigo to the pot and I said to Rebecca, "Let the yarn stay in the pot longer, we're looking for a deep green." We watched the intensity of the value not the color (everything looks green not blue in a reduced-oxygen indigo pot) as Rebecca swirled the fiber in the pot raising it out of the liquid from time to time.
It looked good, a black green, a deep seaweed color; I said, "OK" and Rebecca pulled the 16 skeins from the bath. We watched the black become blue over the Weld yellow—it turned a true teal—as the oxygen struck the indigo solution on the fiber.
It was a green we'd looked for—a deepish color—one that was distinct from the lighter greens we'd just gotten in the more dilute indigo pot when we'd pulled the yarn out sooner.
As much as lovely colors we want for you, we want colors that are different from one another because everybody has a different favorite color.
This color was dyed in a limited editions of 16 skeins.
Available from the Yarn Store.