When I were a lass…
No seriously, I started knitting when there were fewer choices in fibers, weights, uses…just fewer yarns! And way beck then, I could choose from a variety of synthetic stuff from department stores or good old fashioned wool. It was the fiber of choice for my great-grandmother when she made mittens that she sowed across the countryside like seeds. And it’s still a favorite of mine.
The Bartlett Mill in Harmony Maine has been in operation since 1821 and still uses the last working spinning mule in America. (You can look at a video of it in operation here
Most commercial yarns are spun from combed top on large machines that pull the fiber in such a way as to give it a smooth surface finish. This is called worsted spun. At the Bartlett Mill, they use carded fiber, and the spinning mule pulls the fiber in a back and forth motion that mimics the motion of hand spinning, resulting in a fuzzier surface. This is called woolen spun. The result is a fuzzier, loftier and, warmer yarn.
In an age where everyone is looking for soft, softer, softest, old fashioned woolen yarns are often overlooked as “too scratchy.” But let me tell you what happens to soft yarns; they pill and wear thin in a very short time. They can’t help it, poor darlings. It’s their nature.
A good old fashioned sturdy woolen yarn is a bit uncomfortable if you rub it against the under side of your chin, and I have to admit that I would not wear it next to my skin. But if you are looking for a perfect yarn to make an exterior garment, like a heavy sweater or coat, or if you want your knit wear to last a long long time, or if you just want to rediscover the joy of a springy wool that feels alive in your hands, Bartlett should be your go-to. I knit a sweater for my active 8 year old which he wore and wore and wore. He is now 16 and has long since out grown it, but look at it?
Bartlett Fisherman 2ply is one of the few remaining choices for making traditional Fisherman’s Mittens (Thanks to Robin Hansen for publishing a pattern for the fabulous Chebeague Island Mittens though most of the old wives made them without patterns) and it is ideal for all your felting projects.
This week’s featured yarn is Bartlett. Bartlettyarns, Inc. is a local Maine company which spins 100% wool yarn in a traditional style using a mule spun mill which has been in operation since 1821 in Harmony, Maine. They’re proud to produce a 100% American product and we’re proud to sell it here at Over the Rainbow Yarn!
Bartlett yarn is a rugged worsted-weight wool which is excellent for felting and warm, durable outerwear.
Visit www.bartlettyarns.com to read more of their story.
Here are a few suggestions – click on the photos for links to the patterns on Ravelry.com:
This week’s featured yarn is Sparrow, from Quince & Co. It’s a 100% linen sport weight yarn. It has a slight sheen for a touch of elegance, and it comes in the delicate palette that we love Quince & Co. for! Linen is a most excellent fiber for light, breathable summer garments or fine dish towels.
Quince & Co. offers some gorgeous patterns designed for this yarn. We’ve been dreaming of the Saco Stripes top. (pattern available on Ravelry)