Natural Sock Yarn Club 2
Welcome to the 2nd Natural Sock Yarn Club!
Last year we kicked off the first Natural Sock Yarn Club with Close, when it just came freshly from the mill as the first Ovis et cetera exclusive, custom spun yarn. A couple of weeks ago I received a new batch of Close from John Arbon Textiles where it gets spun, so I thought it was only fitting to also start this second club year with Close.
This year is going to be a search for new sock yarns as well am I going to decide which yarns are staying in the Ovis et cetera sock yarn collection? There is no doubt that Close is here to stay for the foreseeable future. It is a great addition to the natural yarn family and is so very versatile. As this is a sock club, I assume you are going to use your yarn to make socks, but it is also perfectly suitable for mittens, a hat, the yoke of a sweater, and anything else.
Close is a blend of 40% Devon Closewool 40% Exmoor Blueface and 20% Zwartbles. It is a lovely blend of 3 different sheep breeds that all live close to the mill in Devon, making it a minimally travelled yarn. I chose to add a dash of Zwartbles both to give the yarn its lovely heathered colour, and to add a bit of my Dutch heritage. Close is spun with a little bit of extra twist for extra durability, making it perfect for socks but also suitable for many other purposes, it has great stitch definition which makes cables and stitch patterns pop, and it is ideal for colourwork.
Let me introduce you to the different breeds that make Close:
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 received 4 x 25 gram skeins, one of them being undyed. You will notice the undyed skein looks slightly different from the dyed ones. Once the yarn has been dyed it poofs up and becomes more springy as well. Pull the skeins to feel the difference in spring and memory. The undyed skein doesn't have a lot of stretch compared to the dyed skeins, it feels more drapey.
You could compare it with curly hair that gets straightened, but then when it gets wet the curls come back. When the yarn gets spun it gets combed thoroughly, which straightens the curls. Dyeing it in hot water gives the fiber its original curl and with that its spring and bounce back.
Normally I would soak the undyed skeins as well if I would use them in a set like this, to make the set look uniform. But then I thought it might be interesting if you could see the transformation. So for this club set I left the yarn the way it came from the mill. If you want you can soak your undyed skein in hot water before knitting, but you can also use it as is, once blocked it will look the same as the dyed yarn. And then this also gave me the idea to include a little sample of the unspun top, which I also ordered this time. I couldn't fit the sheep in the envelope, but this way you do get to experience a bit of the process of yarn making. And if you are a spinner you can have a little taste at spinning some Close yourself. Expect some dyed Close tops coming to the shop later this year!
You received a mini skein set as Close is so very suitable to use for colourwork. And I would like you to be able to try this out if you want to. But you could just as well use your set for a pair of stripey vanilla socks of course. I have selected some patterns that would work particularly well with your set that are not all colourwork but do make use of multiple colours in different ways. Enjoy!
Heart shaped socks set by Stone knits (Ravelry)
Sprocket socks by Megan Nodecker (Ravelry)
Citrus sunrise socks by Renee Strouts (Ravelry)