Wovember Chicken Knitting

November 12, 2014

I knew I didn’t have quite enough yarn for a cardigan for Our Dear Girl but I was going to make it work anyway. As it is Wovember, I thought I would celebrate the endeavour and good sheep it came from.

IMG_3611The yarn is English Leicester x Merino by Moseley Park.  The sheep are raised by Jane and Ian at Moseley Park on the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia. This is a wheat and wool farm. I reckon this yarn is a bit special not just because of the special sheep it comes from but because it is some of the last of the yarn that was able to be spun in Australia by small growers.  I bought it at the Australian Sheep and Wool Show earlier this year and was able to meet and chat to Jane, the farmer.  It is a lovely  semi-variegated moss colour in the Brigit colourway.


20141112_193343English Leicester is a longwool sheep, part of a group of sheep recognisable by their Roman noses, upright ears and the lustrous, curly locks of their fleece.  English Leicester is sturdy, strong and rugged. It is not generally worn next to the skin. This is what Robson and Ekarius have to say about this fibre in The Fleece and Fibre Sourcebook (2011),

The Longwools include some of the largest sheep we have, but they are slow growing, which isn’t a trait industrial farmers aren’t interested in. Also, most wools used in commercial milling operations are medium-length fibers…no long wools need apply. But the good news is handspinners, knitters, crocheters, and weavers can really help to keep these animals and the farmers who raise them viable! …you can find fleeces…you can find ready-made yarns eager to meet your needles, hooks, or loom.

English_Leicester_LambsEnglish Leicester lambs at Collingwood Children’s Farm in Victoria, Australia. Image by Fernando de Sousa (2008). This image is part of the Wikimedia Commons collection.

Arriving in 1824, English Leicester is a rare, heritage sheep in Australia and according to Heritage Sheep Australia, only 17 flocks remain here. It is rare and endangered in the UK, its country of origin. This is precious stuff.

Now Our Dear Girl is hard on clothes and expects them to follow her up trees, in tunnels and through the mire. With her recent preference for green, the yarn seemed well chosen just not bountiful.  With only two skeins totaling 338 m, it was time to play yarn chicken.

IMG_4839I chose the pattern carefully, no experiments, no flights of fancy, just a trusty, well tested, well reviewed pattern. The stalwart chosen was Granny’s Favourite by Georgie Hallam, a fellow Victorian and designer of the Milo phenomenon. It is a top down cardigan specifically designed with chicken knitting in mind with flexible sleeve hem and body hem lengths. It also has a wide neck so that the robust yarn will not be next to the skin.

IMG_4846I knit the yoke first and divided for the sleeves.  After knitting a couple of rows of the body, I broke off the yarn leaving a tail of a couple of metres. The remaining yarn, I divided in half with the aid of my children and some street frontage. With each half, I knit up the sleeves alternating the second yarn ball to obscure the transition between balls. The sleeves were knit to a three quarter length to both conserve yarn and keep it away from skin. The remaining yarn went for the body and I knit till there was no more. Ravelry details here.

The buttons I found in the button jar after a thorough search.

IMG_4853As it is approaching summer here, this is not for immediate wear. I will give it at Christmas in anticipation of a Winter that is coming.

Local rare breed sheep, local production, local designer and the adrenalin rush of limited yarn…this is crack for knitters.

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  1. I always enjoy hearing about the sheep behind the yarn. If anyone could make 2 skeins into a beautiful cardigan fit for an adventurer , it’s you! I popped over the read about Yarn Chicken, what a great phrase, I might have to mutter Fabric Chicken to myself sometime work through challenges.

  2. What a choice post full of history, practical knowledge, community connections, artistic flare, thrift, and humour! Thanks for the big smile on my face this morning.

  3. This is a garment with history… Thank you for sharing the story behind the wool. Having not enough yarn for the project is one of my greatest fear 🙂 I like the idea of “chicken knitting”.

  4. Such a great use of heritage yarn. I think most of us have been involved in playing Yarn Chicken to make the best use of one or two precious skeins of wool. The sweater is great and the buttons really pop!!

  5. I’m not a knitter but I care a lot about keeping heritage products viable and available so this was fascinating reading. I also was impressed to read your approach to getting the most out of your limited yarn supply!

  6. Finally I got to read your post…don’t even wonder 🙂 but Yarn Chicken and her post made me laugh out loud, then there is ‘crack for knitters’ ! Yes, you do have a way with words. That cardi is wonderful, my colour green! I have to stay away from Georgie Hallam’s site…I did get pattern for and knit the Gidday sweater and it was great. I like this one also.
    Enjoyed reading the Leicester sheep history in Australia. How sad there are so few left…what is wrong with people?
    And I can certainly relate to Rachael and her fabric chicken, episodes hahaha
    but she is only dealing with Hexies!!

  7. So pretty, and I love the colour.

    I am knitting for a baby – I feel very old admitting that it will be a first grandbaby, but I did start my family very young. Milo is on my list already and I shall be adding this pattern if it’s a girl.

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