Breed Mesa

January 29, 2016

IMG_2225This project really belongs to last year. I finished it just before New Year. Curiously, the last Enchanted Mesa I finished during the same period a year ago!

IMG_2221Enchanted Mesa by Stephen West is such a liberated, fast knit and a great opportunity not simply to use up single skeins in the stash but to explore particular themes. My last one explored yarns I bought and spun from the Australian Sheep and Wool Show that year. This one explores various sheep breeds including Merino, Finn, Gotland, Shetland and contrasts a hand painted yarn with a range of natural fleece shades.

Enchanted Bendigo was made in sports weight using a 3.75 mm needle and is quite fitting. The yarns for this Breed Mesa are mostly DK weight and I used a 4 mm needle throughout. It has significantly more ease but is not overly large.

IMG_2220These are the yarns I have used from top to bottom:

  • Plum: Finnsheep, raised and handpainted by Susie Horne in the Adelaide Hills, South Australia. I bought a single skein of this at my first Australian Sheep and Wool Show maybe seven years ago. It is next-to-the-skin soft, a really lovely yarn.
  • Cream: Unlabelled stash yarn but most likely to be Patons Merino Totem Machine Washable. This came from an op shop purchase, some was labelled and some was just wound into balls but it looked like the same stuff.
  • Silver: New Lanark DK in Limestone, purchased from the mill shop in 2012. The trip to New Lanark, in Scotland was a wonderful day for me…labour history, utopianism and hydro-spun yarn, all in the one place!
  • Light gray: Granite Haven Gotland, homespun style in silver purchased at Cheryl Crosbie’s open farm day a couple of years ago. This is a plump, soft and squishy yarn, more of a light worsted weight than DK.
  • Dark gray: Shetland handspun by Ingirid Eunson (hand written on a luggage label), bought in Lerwick by my parents on a trip many years ago. It is slightly lighter in weight than the rest and this creates a soft drape right where it is needed. It is woollen spun, lighter than air and the slight, natural variegation is beautiful.
  • Black: New Lanark in Natural Black. The New Lanark yarns are a blend of Swaledale, Cheviot, Hebridean, Kent Romney, Jacob, Shetland from the UK and Merino from New Zealand. They are woollen spun and have a slightly coarse feel which softens after washing much like the Shetland yarns do.

IMG_2226Just by accident, this project also explores the fabrics created by simply processed yarns and a machine washable yarn (which I had in my stash and was the shade and weight I needed). On its own, I have never really considered the feel of machine washable yarn. I don’t often buy it as it is considerably more resource intensive in its production. When knitted up next to these other yarns however, I can see how it drapes heavily lacking the barb-like projections of the un-treated wool fibre shaft. It lacks the structure, life and character of the other yarns. The bits I am referring to are the first cream wedge closest to the neck and cream sleeve cuff. It feels very very different from the other fabrics, which whilst all different in their own way have a quality that makes them distinct from this highly processed yarn.

I am glad the machine washable yarn is in here. It demonstrates in a sensory way the implications of additional yarn processing. I am also enjoying all the breeds in here and their various sensory qualities. It feels like wearing a sampler.



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    1. Thanks Susan, Stephen West is a bit of a genius I reckon. A knitting engineer in the Elizabeth Zimmerman style.

  1. It’s quite a mesmerising pattern to look at. Reminds me somehow of 1920’s design – the asymmetry perhaps and the way it draws the eye to the shoulder. Very beautiful.

  2. An absolutely stunning new sweater and I love the experimentation with the various breeds. I would imagine it feels heavenly to wear.
    I am also not a big purchaser of machine washable wool either because I miss that lovely wool texture you get with the less processed wools.

  3. A beautiful garment and a very interesting post. A perfect way to compare and contrast the properties of the different yarns. The sweater looks soooo comfy and the colour really suits. I have only knitted one Stephen West pattern, the Daybreak shawl, but I have a couple of other shawl patterns of his in my queue.

    1. Thanks Katherine, It was a pleasure to knit, just the right combination of zen knitting round and round, the intrigue of colour/yarn choice and the suspense of not quite enough yarn.

  4. Oh, I just went and looked at the pattern page in Ravelry. You might think of linking your finished sweater to that pattern page. I do believe it is the prettiest and well done! But, of course, I am slightly prejudice when it comes to you projects….but it is the truth!!!!! Joanie

    1. Dear Joanie, you are so kind and encouraging to me…thank you! My version is linked to the pattern page but you have to scroll way down to find me, the default search puts the projects with the most favourites first. There are so many wonderful versions of this design.

  5. Just lovely! I agree that superwash yarns have a more ‘lifeless’ feel to them that really needs to be counteracted with lots of twist for me to enjoy knitting with them. I’ve always hated cascade yarns for this reason, they feel so overprocessed to me.

    1. Ah! that is very interesting Alicia. I hadn’t thought about the yarn construction side of things. Adding twist would certainly energise superwash creating a liveliness that processing would normally remove. This is such a spinner’s observation…thank you!

  6. Very nice! And your selection of colours gives the pattern more visual movement than I saw briefly in his photos. You’ll probably get stopped on the street and asked many questions about it. Wonderful!

    1. Thanks Marilyn! It is interesting I think that the Westknits version is so muted when the majority of the versions on Ravelry have opted to emphasise the asymmetry with bolder contrasts. I had not really focused in on that before but your observation about the visual movement is right I think.

  7. It’s so lovely, Rebecca! The colours also (to me) reflect the Australian landscape somewhat.
    The combination of different breed specific wools has worked so well, and as you say; reads like a sampler. So very apt to include a superwash to give that immediate contrast of fibres.

    Enjoy wearing your beaut new jumper!

    1. Dear Kylie, Thank you for your kind words. I am just loving the different thoughts folks are having about this version. Again, I had not considered the Australianess of the colours but you are quite right. There is an red earth, bleached trees and post bushfire feel to the colours. I wonder if we are drawn to particular combinations for their subconscious associations or do we ‘read’ an arbitrary selection through our mental associations or perhaps it is both all tangled together?

  8. Rebecca these jumpers, just stunning what a great play with colour The choice of colour and the transition of colour makes each an individual special garment.
    It helps that you have the figure to show them
    From a shepherd who breeds Gotlands and processes in Victoria,it is pleasing to see different breeds together in the one item showing that fiber from different breeds can work together.
    Must try this pattern myself Thank you

    1. Dear Cheryl, Thanks for your comment, it is a treat to have the shepherd of the animal who produced the fibre for a project, comment on the final garment! I give thanks for the magic of the internet! Yes, I think you are right, fibre from different breeds can work really well together, not simply as blends as we would normally use them but sitting side by side in the project so that we can enjoy all their qualities. What would be really interesting would be to combine a number of different breeds in a single project but where the qualities of those different breeds were all used in different ways. I am thinking here of a tough hard wearing breed being used for the heel and foot of sock for example and a softer, springier breed for the leg and ribbed top. So many projects, so little time!

      1. I looked at the pattern[Mesa].
        It comes across the arms ???restricted movement.
        How comfortable is it
        I will send you a freebie of Shropshire for you to trial for hard wearing especially for the heel of socks.
        My friend Marilyn should be getting some processed this year and it is done in Victoria

        1. Dear Cheryl, It doesn’t feel constricted as there is a significant amount of ease in the garment but it is unusual to wear and takes a little getting used to. Thanks for the info on the Shropshire being hardwearing for socks, I was hoping it might be as I have a bag of Shroppy fleece from the Collingwood Children’s Farm that I really didn’t quite know how to approach. Is your friend Marilyn getting the Shropshire made into commercial yarn? If so this would be very exciting. Are we having a Victorian yarn renaissance?

  9. That is super! looks very, can I say sexy on you?! Very interesting re the look and feel of the super wash. It is true that it is often not in close proximity with ‘real’ wool. I agree with Kylie re the landscape colours of AU, even though I have not been there! nice choices.

    1. Dear Susan, thank you, you may say sexy, you bold reader you! Yes, we don’t normally mix up our wools but this project really invites you put all kinds of things together and so really by accident I got to feel the difference between superwash and regular wool.

  10. It looks fabulous on you, a really sexy little number. I love it!! The stories behind your work always fascinate me and this was no exception.

  11. This is really the most glorious garment Rebecca! I agree it’s the assymetry which makes it so special. It looks like an archaeological dig transformed into a sweater. May you have many happy occasions wearing it! And what a great talking point for a party, if like me (unlikely) you’re ever stuck for conversation topics.

    1. Dear Polly, Thank you so much. Your idea of the sweater as an archaeological dig is a lovely one both as a visual observation with all those layers (which ARE often different colours and textures in a dig) and as a metaphorical one using up yarns from different time periods and with different stories attached. I am delighted with this idea. I do hope it helps me at a party, as I often manage those events handing around the food and doing the washing up!

  12. What a glorious jumper (and sampler). Your post and pictures made me want to go out and knit this jumper immediately! It sounds well suited to some of the yarns I have lying about in all their wild variety…

    1. Dear Mary, Thank you for your kind words and please, please do go and knit one up…I would love to see what you put together. I am thinking of some of your yarns from the steep and store experiments…oh the stories that would be knitted into one of your Enchanted Mesas! I promise you it is a very fast knit, perfect for commuting or co-piloting the car.

  13. Oh, Rebecca! I loved your first Mesa, but this is just over the top! I absolutely adore your choice of colors and I love how different all the yarns you used are! Love love it so much!

  14. This jumper is beautiful Rebecca, and it does look absolutely lush on you. And i agree that the colours and the mix of breeds and the mix of the different ways of processing wool, makes this a very special jumper!!!! Its like a sculpture!

    1. Thanks Isabel and congratulations on winning the moral boost for Shackleton. I am a bit behind in the FiberTrek episodes, so only just heard! It was so well deserved, you are such an active encouraging presence in the Ravelry thread. Yay you! You are right, this design is like a sculpture.

  15. I am always inspired how knitting is never “just knitting” for you, it seems as though its more of a vehicle that allows you to explore (and express) your questions, ideas, ethics and values. so. wonderful. xo

  16. I commented on this on Instagram but missed it here. I still thinking it’s stunning.

    I’m really interested in the comments re. the different fabric created by the machine washable yarn. Another thought for you … it takes the dye more easily than untreated yarn, absorbing more of it, and so the colour often looks flatter.

    1. I hadn’t thought about the dye aspect Annie, so thank you. It certainly does seem to have a different quality of colour to the others but I want quite sure what it was.

  17. This woolly wonder suits you perfectly! It’s such a great shape and wonderful long cosy warm hand sleeves. The colours remind me of the layered sand scrapings collected in jars.

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