I have been a bit of a list person, a should do kind of woman. So I rather surprised myself with this spontaneous treat of a project…a shawl just for me, knit for the sheer pleasure of it, a perfect holiday knitting experience. I cast on as soon as we unpacked and knitted into every stitch all the delightful moments of our winter holiday in Maldon.
It all started with the yarn, as all satisfying knitting projects do. After my moaning about the lack of locally grown and spun, breed specific yarns, I recently stumbled across Granite Haven, a small fibre farm in the Strathbogie Ranges of Victoria. Cheryl Crosbie raises llamas and Gotland sheep, a rare breed sheep in Australia. She sells fleece, fibre and yarns from her animals in a broad range of natural colours. Cheryl is just lovely to deal with, sending samples and photographs before purchase and the yarn arrived swiftly, in perfect time for our holiday.
According to the Fleece and Fibre Sourcebook, Gotland sheep are a twentieth century Swedish breed. It resembles fine mohair or an English luster long wool. The Stansborough Greys of New Zealand are a strain of Gotland. Their fibre was used to weave the elven cloaks in the Lord of the Rings movie. The Sourcebook suggests that Gotland fibre makes an especially lustrous fine yarn if spun worsted, which I now really, really want to do!
The yarn is a loose, mill spun three ply, in a slightly uneven DK weight. It is a compelling, pleasurable yarn to knit with. Occasionally, you might find a little vegetative matter but it is easy to remove and I reckon it is a poignant reminder of the shortness of the distance this yarn has travelled from paddock to needles. It has drape and lustre and over-dyes beautiful as Cheryl’s samples showed.
I had been longing to knit up another Evelyn Clark Shetland Triangle Lace Shawl since making Flame last year as a gift. The pattern was a perfect match for the yarn. It has knitted up scrumptious and warm, a shawl to snuggle into when the cold winds blow.
The Maldon Shawl was knit straight up from the pattern with no modifications on 5mm needles. I knit a total of twelve pattern repeats before knitting the border. Details ravelled here. The Gotland yarn didn’t block as strongly as the handspun Polwarth yarn of Flame. It seems to want to return to its pre-blocked state with bounce and undulations. I would like see what cables look like knit up in Gotland.
The colour is a kind of milk chocolate colour or the colour of a dark mushroom pate. The fleece colours change slightly every year. The browns last year looked more honey coloured. Cheryl’s Gotland sheep also grow silvers and greys, light to darkest black.
If you are intrigued about the Gotland fibre and yarn and you are Victorian, Cheryl has an open day in November to sell fleeces and fibre for spinning. Yarns and fibre are available online from Cheryl and EcoYarns.