Natural sock yarn club
Welcome to the Ovis et cetera Natural Sock Yarn Club! I am so grateful you joined and very excited to have you experience all the Ovis et cetera sock yarns, tell you about their background, and inspire with matching pattern suggestions so you can let the different bases shine to their full potential.
You have just received and unwrapped your first package which led you to this page. I decided to start with the newest addition: Close. I am extremely excited about this new base and therefore didn't want to delay introducing it to you. I hope you will love it as much as I do.
This time last year I got in touch with the people at John Arbon textiles as I wanted to have a custom sock yarn spun. I was looking for a yarn that was a true sock yarn first of all, but also versatile enough to be used for other things. I chose all three sheep breeds in this blend because they have the kind of wool I love: a bunch of character but still soft. I also liked the idea of a naturally coloured yarn as up until that point there only were white sock yarns in the Ovis et cetera collection.The dash of Zwartbles gives the yarn its lovely heathered colour, while it adds a bit of my Dutch heritage. Most important to me was that all the wool for this yarn was sourced in the UK, and it turned out even better as all three of these breeds are sourced close by the mill in Devon making this a minimally traveled yarn. I loved working with the friendly people at John Arbon textiles, and am very thankful for this beautiful natural sock yarn that I now get to share with you.
Both Devon Closewool and Exmoor Blueface are crossbred from the Exmoor Horn. Devon Closewool is Exmoor Horn x Devon Longwool, and Exmoor Blueface as the name suggests, is a crossbreed between the Exmoor Horn and Bluefaced Leicester.
So technically there is quite a bit of Exmoor Horn in this yarn, also as it is such a cool sheep it needs a little introduction:
Exmoor Horn sheep are an ancient breed indigenous to Exmoor. The remains of similar sheep have been found amongst the detritus of Roman encampments on the North Devon coast. Although farmed commercially, they are a minority breed and are classed as “at risk” since 95% of the breeding stock is within the moorland areas of Devon and West Somerset. They are one of the few hill breeds with a relatively fine fleece, and with a good staple length. Unusually, both males and females are horned.
Scientific studies have shown that Exmoor Horns are genetically adapted to their environment. They are tough, hardy sheep, able to withstand high rainfall with minimal foot trouble. They are very protective mothers, good milkers, and able to thrive on what would otherwise be considered poor herbage. An Exmoor Horn ewe, though docile and easy to contain, will look you straight in the eye. It is this irascible, defiant grumpiness that ensures their survival under adverse conditions, wool with attitude you might say.
The Devon Closewool is a very hardy sheep with a docile temperament. It is distributed almost exclusively on Exmoor in North Devon, in southwest England. Thrives on a purely grass-based diet. A medium-sized white-faced sheep without horns. Its significant feature is its exceptional fleece of wool.
The breed arose around the mid-1800s when Exmoor Horn sheep were crossed with the Devon Longwools. The resultant intermediate-sized sheep proved very popular and expanded rapidly in numbers. By 1950 there were around 229,000 Closewools, almost all of them located in Devon making them the most numerous breed in the county at that time. The Devon Closewool Sheep Breeders Society was formed in 1923.
Devon Closewools are a true triple-purpose breed, meat, dense strong wool, and an ideal sheep for crossbreeding. The wool is dense, medium length with a strong staple that does not part easily so the skin stays dry. This enables the sheep to thrive in wet, cold conditions.
About the Exmoor Blueface from the John Arbon website:
The Exmoor Blueface is a crossbreed of the Exmoor Horn (our local hill sheep) and the distinguished Bluefaced Leicester (the softest British sheep breed). Its fibre has a wonderful springy nature and adds plenty of bounce to a blend. As the name implies, our Exmoor Blueface is bred and farmed in Devon where we live – and can often be seen roaming happily on the Exmoor hills.
The history of the Zwartbles as a sheep breed starts in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. It is thought that the Zwartbles breed is descended from a relatively large breed of sheep called the Schoonebeker which grazed the heathlands of North East Holland. It gets its name from a place called Schoonebeek in the province of Drenthe.
The Schoonebeker lambs were at the time walked to the livestock market in Norg where they were sold as store lambs to farmers from Northern Friesland who used them to fertilise their pastures while fattening. This practice declined when commercial fertilisers became available and the Schoonebeker lamb trade crashed resulting in the Schoonebeker becoming an extremely rare breed. Some of the store lambs sold had badger face markings that resemble the modern day Zwartbles sheep, and if you look at the pictures of the Schoonebeker you can see the resemblance including the slight roman noses, long neck and erect posture. A number of Friesian farmers decided to line breed these “Zwartbles “ Schoonebeker sheep and with some influence from Friesian Milk sheep and Texel’s the modern day Zwartbles was developed.
You have two 50-gram skeins in the colourways Wine and Sage, as I wanted you to see how wonderful the grey base is for both saturated and pale colours. Also as Close is such a woolly yarn, it lends itself very well for colourwork.
Close is spun as a 3-ply, not to be mistaken or compared with sock yarn weight being referred to as 4-ply. Close is made up of 3 smaller strands that are plied together. 3 Ply yarns create a smooth and even fabric in stockinette while it makes cables and textured stitches pop and stand out.
I picked a few patterns that would be perfect for your two colour bundle of Close. A little bit of everything. The possibilities don't end here. Use any 2 colour pattern or your favourite sock pattern and stripe the colours, or make contrasting heels cuffs and toes.
I would love to see what you make! Please share your makes in any way you are comfortable with. If you use social media it would be great if you use #naturalsockyarnclub & #ovisetcetera You can follow these hashtags to see what your fellow club members are making.
Dreaming of Paris by Joji Locatelli
Happy natural sock knitting!
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