by Kim Goodling of Vermont Grand View Farm
Pure Breed Yarn
Not all sheep are created equal. Each breed of sheep has its own distinct wool characteristics. The world of fiber has finally embraced true breed wool yarn, recognizing that every wool type has a place and purpose in our lives. Knitters and fiber artists are saying , "no thank you " to the acrylic synthetic yarns and generic cheap "wool" skeins imported from places unknown. Knitting local and small batch yarns have risen to the top. Soft no longer has to be merino and rugged durable wool has found its way to knitting needles. No one speaks more eloquently about pure breed yarn than Clara Parkes, knitter, teacher, and author of several well read books.
“Imagine if all the wine in the world—red and white alike—were mixed together and sold as generic “wine.” Think of how many centuries of craftsmanship and flavor would be lost, and how mediocre it would taste compared with how it would taste if the grapes had been kept separate or selectively blended. Such an act would be almost unthinkable in the food world. But in the knitting world, just as much nuance is lost every day when flat, bouncy, long, short, matte, and lustrous fibers from ancient and modern sheep breeds alike are bundled together and sold as generic “wool” yarn.” ~ Clara Parkes, The Knitter's Book of Wool
According to Susan Schoenian, author of Sheep 101, the United States alone has approximately 50 identified breeds of sheep. Some believe there are over 1000 different breeds of sheep across the world. Every breed of sheep has its own unique wool qualities, which bring life to the yarn and character to the knitted fabric. Some wool, like Gotland and Lincoln has little or no crimp. The long lustrous curls lend themselves well to shawls, throws, and wraps. Other breeds, like Rambouillet or Cormo have springy, lofty wool, perfect for holding in warmth when knit into mittens, hats, and vests. Clara’s book, The Knitter's Book of Wool, educates knitters about the many different breeds and their wool properties, opening our eyes to the joy of knitting with pure breed wool yarn and challenging us to cast on with one of the unique lesser known wools.
Nurtured with Love
Much of the pure breed yarn in the United States comes from small family farms who specialize in unique breeds of sheep. When you purchase pure breed yarn, each yarn sale directly supports the very hands that nurture the sheep. Small family farms raise their flocks out of a love for the land and the animal. They pour their hearts and souls into what they do and share that with you- one skein of yarn at a time.
Supporting a Community
When a customer purchases yarn from the farm that raises the sheep, they not only support the shepherd, but an entire community of workers that surround that farm and its flock. Many hands tend a flock and help produce the yarn that passes from their hands to yours. A typical farm community may include the local feed and grain store owner, the country vet that dedicates his life to driving from farm to farm caring for the sick, the neighboring farmer who grows, cuts, and bales hay for flocks of sheep, the family mill that washes and spins my wool, the shearer who bends over each sheep to clip their wool, and the local graphic artist who designs and prints farm business cards. As Clara Parkes states, “so many traditions and locales and livelihoods are impacted by the choice of a skein, and the vast majority of those skeins are wool."
By choosing to knit with pure breed yarn, you support local farm communities while learning that no two breeds of sheep are created equal. You also learn that your life has a place for many different types of wool and that each is indispensable.