Glorious Green…only a few more days

It’s Green Week at the Wool Box!

Glorious Green

I’ve mentioned before that one of the inspirations for my blog was a wonderful non-profit Italian wool cooperative. They gather raw wool from small producers all over Italy and then process it ENTIRELY in Italy under the supervision of the Textile and Health Association so you know that no dyes with Chrome or other toxic mordants have been used, nothing scary has been put in to wash it, and best of all, wool that might have been discarded by small producers is being made into lovely, high-quality yarn that you can buy direct from the cooperative (and they offer quantity discounts). The only downside for english-speaking yarnies, is that the website is all in Italian. Don’t let that stop you! If you have questions or want to order. Send an e-mail to in English and they’ll be able to help you.

Meanwhile, for this week only they’re having a sale on Green! I’ve translated a selection from their latest blog entry, look for the links to go to the Wool Box site and see great photos of the yarns on offer:

Right now it’s shearing time in Italy and so we often have the welcome presence of the woolgrowers themselves in our offices. They ask us about the market for their products: “How do people find our wool? Do they like it? Do they use it?” are what they most want to know.

So, following on the success of “Blue Week”, we’re now offering “Green Week” – 7 days of great prices on all of our green yarn.

Green…as the pastures abundantly watered by heavy rains this month (here come the old adages – but they endure for a reason); as green as hope for which, especially in these uncertain times, we feel the absolute necessity; as green as the future that together we can help by supporting good practices, and production with a reduced environmental impact.

To “Green Week” we want to combine last week’s proposal, “We are all ambassadors” so, with a volume purchase combined with the wonderful price for everything ‘green’ the savings could be quite impressive and the “so many friends, so much savings” does not refer only to a single color, so “Green Week” savings can be combined with the purchase of additional products in other colors to create the quantity needed to receive the additional discount.

Yarn (price per 100g skein)

>5 kg

>10 kg

Oropa  €     6.50  €     6.10
Bose  €     6.90  €     6.50
Verbania  €     6.90  €     6.50

If you like green and your friends like blue, or cream, or orange…place a group order and ‘shear’ the price.

So, order green Oropa(verdone) for projects that need adequate body and structure, green Verbania for outerwear that gets heavy use, bags, slippers and it’s ideal for weaving, green Bose for projects that need a soft, lofty, light touch…all of these of course are from local, Italian producers. The wool processing takes place entirely in Italy from start to finish and is 100% traceable and controlled by the Italian Textile and Health Association which does not allow the use of any chemicals that might be hazardous to your health in any stage of wool processing.

Ah yes, the price: only 7,00 € per skein for each type of green yarn but only for this week.

Haven’t decided yet? What’s in your work-basket?

Happy wool-working to everybody!

I can personally recommend the Bose as an exceptional yarn, I used it to make my favorite hat and am looking forward to using it for that next cardigan project…Really, if you love working with wool, give the Wool Box a try and I’m sure that you’ll love it.


Red Letter Days


“Mamma spindle and Baby spindle” as my daughter calls them. Red is her favorite color so I ordered this fluff to make her a sweater, hopefully she’ll help me spin it!

Another year another spindle

I’ve had quite a few red letter days in the last two weeks; even amidst the chaos of single-momming while my husband works in another city and the ‘real-job’ projects keep coming in…my daughter’s 6th birthday celebrated twice last week, once at home and once with her school friends! Above is the spindle that I made for her (she asked for a smaller, lighter one than mine which is to the left). Then we went to Venice to see my husband who has been working there for the last three weeks. I was bummed that Lellabella was closed, I had wanted to explore, but happy that the sun came out for the few hours we were there and that the city was its usual, glorious self.

Robin and her Dad sketching the Bacino di San Marco.

Robin and her Dad sketching the Bacino di San Marco.

The Zen of Spindles

Then the night after I got a really sore throat and it went down hill from there! We got home and I fell into bed, just now feeling better and finally finished with the big editing project I had to complete this week! Sigh. What to do to make my head stop spinning with misplaced comma’s and typo’s? Why not try out that new red fluff that came right before we left? Spinning is so calming and I was amazed with how thin of a single I was able to get from this English wool (processed here with Italian expertise). Without waiting to wet-set this tiny first test-bit, I just knit some up to see how the color would look…WOW! Everything I’ve ordered from The Wool Box so far has been so great that it’s hard not to want to try everything!

Carded English Wool, color: AMARANTO (it comes in Raspberry/LAMPONE as well).

They call this “carded English wool” and the color is AMARANTO (it comes in Raspberry/LAMPONE as well). I knitted it up on 8s (6mm) and found it springy, lofty, and soft. It will be the perfect thing for my girl’s new winter sweater!

Is super-wash really that super?

super wash wool: not so super

Am I the only one who dreads washing a ‘super wash’ garment for the first time?

The truth is, super wash wool is not so super for every project…

I’m a sucker for both for bright colors and the lure of easy-care; however, I’m starting to change my mind about both of those. I knit the ‘rainbow’ sweater above for my daughter just before Christmas and she has worn it a lot. She requested it, chose the colors and the style and then bothered me about it until it was done. I made it in a size that would last through next winter but now I’m wondering why I bothered.

robin in the rainbow sweater

This is what it looked like the day it was finished, pretty isn’t it! It was smooth and soft but even before washing it was developing ‘pills’. Now, just so you know, I don’t think hand washing is that big of a deal and I still don’t. I dunked this one in my sink with cold water and a little wool wash, let it sit for 10 min, rinsed and squeezed in a towel and laid it flat to dry. But, had I put it in the wash, the results would have been the same or even worse…time saved washing is lost in fishing out the sweater shaver and de-pilling so that it doesn’t look like a reject from the second-hand store.

Think twice before investing your time in a big project with super wash wool:

I was about to just reconcile myself to the fact that soft wool meant pilling and there was no way around it. At least it was just a kid’s sweater, something she’d grow out of and that hadn’t been so time consuming to make. But what about the next big project, the new deco cardigan pattern that I just ordered from Kate Davies?  Meanwhile, I had also begun to notice something else, the ‘super-wash’ wool socks that I had made not only pilled a lot, but they weren’t as warm as the others…hmmm.

A strand of hope:

Then, I knit a hat…with a non super-wash wool, just as soft; then I washed it 3 times (by hand) in warm water with the same wool wash and set it to dry on a towel over the radiator… take a really close look:

Super Wool that really washes

Not only is this wool not pilling, it’s not even THINKING about pilling!

It’s smooth, it’s soft and it get’s softer and prettier with every wash and, it’s really warm too! It reminds me of my husband’s magic sweater that now, after 35 years, has the loveliest finish I’ve ever seen.

It’s true that this yarn doesn’t come in a ‘rainbow’ of colors. I see that they have it in a classic palette of navy, orange, brown, green and this pretty natural cream. But the next time I start a project: a full-sized sweater, a mega-cowl, or even a pair of long socks; I’ll think twice before using a soft super-wash and I wouldn’t even consider it for a heritage knitting or crochet project such as a baby blanket, an afghan or even pillow covers. Yes it can be thrown in the washer on the wool cycle, but once it’s dry, will I really want to wear it a second time?

Winter Wrap-up: making room for spring (part one)!


One down, two to go…

Okay, I’ve finally started to wind down my winter projects. You know those things that we started with good intentions in the fall, thinking we’d be wearing them by December and which spring finds still in the workbasket (and in the other workbasket, and in that cute little paper shopping bag all crowded around the most comfortable knitting chair)? I have three of those that have been on my ‘must finish before it gets warm’ list, how about you?

The first, pictured above, I finished this weekend (YAY!). It’s made with a lovely pink Italian wool that was produced to support women’s breast cancer associations in Europe. You can read about this wonderful project in English and order wool or find out where to buy it HERE.
It’s a classic worsted that is 10 wpi and works up perfectly on U.S. #8 (5mm) needles. I ordered two balls of this wool (50g = 85m) from The Wool Box in January because my daughter, after seeing the fingerless gloves I’d made my husband for Christmas, was bound and determined to have some too. Of course, she wanted pink!

Robin Kay

“I think they’ll want to see the gloves too,” she says.

My girl is just about to turn 6 next week so the gloves went quick and I had an entire ball of pink wool left over; so I asked her, “Hat or scarf?” She requested something in-between, what the italians call a fascia and what I’d call an ‘ear warmer’. Since she has plenty of hats and scarves, the project sat in the basket while I toyed with the idea of adapting a helix scarf and adding cables to make it coordinate with the gloves. Then I got lucky, while browsing Purl Bee for patterns, I fell in love with this mini-herringbone stitch! So easy (once you get the hang of it) and very adaptable. A little graph paper and a few swatches later, I had adapted the design for Robin Kay’s ear warmer.

Here she is, holding up her hand at the last minute to show you all the gloves. At least for this winter wrap-up project it’s still cold enough here in Northern Lombardy for her to wear it to school almost every day. I’ve been impressed that, despite her incredibly sensitive skin and the fact that this is not an extra-fine merino – just plain ol’ virgin wool, she’s never been irritated or itchy; not even the insides of her wrists or the nape of her neck. Not only that, the wool gets softer with every wash. I love (real) Italian wool.

Coming soon…I’ll finally be finishing that cardigan that’s been in my workbasket for the last 3 years! Or or maybe it will be the second sock of the new pair for my husband…the project in that cute shopping bag?

What’s in a Name: Making “Art Yarn” into “Wearable Art”

 All Rights Reserved Laura dell'Erba

“Art Yarns” by Laura dell’Erba

 All Rights Reserved Laura dell'Erba

 All Rights Reserved Laura dell'Erba

Art yarn with netting, silk and other recycled materials incorporated, click on the photo to read the artist’s blog post.

A confession: I have never spun any “Art Yarn”…

But, it’s beautiful stuff to look at isn’t it! I was inspired by the images of Laura dell’Erba’s work as posted at one of my favorite Italian e-shops, The Wool Box. They’re hosting an Art Yarn Workshop this May on the 25th and 26th and it looks really fabulous. I wish I knew how to spin on a wheel (sigh), and solar dye, and eco-print…it’s wonderful that life is so rich with things still to learn!

But, just because I don’t know how to make it, yet…it doesn’t mean that I can’t use it. So, I went searching for projects and advice and found some good stuff:

With complex yarn, it’s worth it to knit something simple and knit viktim did just that with a super simple garter stitch cowl that shows off the yarn:

And here is fiber artist Bobbie Casey’s fabulous “Magnolia Bag” for which she has posted an excellent tutorial. (Stop and take a look at her “Magnolia Shawl” as well)!

All rights reserved copyright Bobbie Casey

Bobbie Casey’s Magnolia Bag

Or one can, like this ETSY designer, simply wear it…

Art Yarn Necklace by Knits by Vara

So go ahead and spin out of control and make some art yarn! Or, if you don’t spin you can still enjoy these amazing art works by transforming them into something just perfect for you.

Too hot to handle? Knitting with wool in warm weather.

I really love to knit and so I don’t want to stop when the weather warms up, nor do I want to have a big pile of wool in my lap. But I love wool! Cotton is okay and I love those cotton/wool/silk blends by Noro but there’s no match for the lofty, soft, inviting (and very forgiving) stretchy-ness of wool.

Of course, Lombardy isn’t Texas, so the summer at it’s worst here is like an early June day in Dallas. Here you want a little something to cover your shoulders when the sun goes down even in August. So, what about wool? My husband has a summer wool suit and he says that in Italian they call summer-weight wool ‘lana fresca’. It’s lovely, it doesn’t crease and it’s light as a feather. So, that got me thinking and clicking. On a lark I googled ‘wool t-shirts’. Wow, too cool, they make them! It turns out that wool is the new fiber of choice for hikers, runners and bikers, even in the summer! There was a really funny blog here by a guy who tested a woolen t-shirt for two weeks to see if it would start to smell:

and another more straight forward review by a cyclist in Texas:

Well, I’m not planning to make any long cycling trips but as I searched I was looking for a some information that wasn’t pitching a product or an organization and I found this tidbit in: Encyclopedia of Deserts

“Wool is the best fabric choice in the desert environment. Nomadic Bedouins in the Middle East wear loose wool garments year-round…therefore, for hiking in the desert a loosely knit wool sweater is a better clothing choice than a cotton sweatshirt. ” (p. 123)

Okay, so I’m not going to go hiking in the desert wearing a new IBEX wool t-shirt…but, although the idea of knitting a t-shirt is tempting, I think I’ll start by knitting a nice lacy light weight something to throw over my shoulders. I like that word my husband taught me, ‘lana fresca’ – refreshing/fresh wool.

Now for the fun part: choosing a which pattern and which wool!

In search of…Wool in Italy

I am a Texan and an avid knitter and beginning spinner who’s been living in a small town Northern Italy for the last 5 years. Considering that Italy is famous for it’s fine woolen products you would think finding yarn and fleece would be easy…yes and no.

And I’m not the only one who’s run into this problem. Lots of little towns have ‘merceria’, small shops that sell thread, yarn, lace, embroidery floss and sewing notions (sometimes even underwear and hair clips as well). While they do carry yarn, every little shop seems to carry exactly the same brands (sigh). Circular needles and (short) double-pointed needles for sock-knitting are almost impossible to find. A spindle and roving…maybe in a specialty shop in a big city, maybe not.

Looking in the weekly outdoor markets in nearby towns I found only the same wool yarns as I found at the mercerie, synthetic yarns and, frustratingly, imported Chinese wool (even bigger sigh). I survived by getting my yarn fix once a year when I went back to Texas and visited my mother who lives near Comfort’s amazing yarn shop The Tinsmith’s Wife.

After 5 years of depravation, you can imagine how thrilled I was when one day on my Facebook sidebar there appeared a little graphic of a black box with a white ball of yarn, the text read “The Wool Box”.

I clicked, expecting to find a page for a U.K. or U.S. based company and was surprised to find an Italian one. Curious, I clicked on the website link and found the yarn shop of my dreams: fluff, spindles, circular needles, DPN’s in every size and, best of all, yarn made from kinds of wool I’d never heard of and ones I recognized but hadn’t been able to find. Excited, I thought I’d give it a try and ordered a box of wool for my birthday…what can I say, since January I’ve been hooked on The Wool Box!

This blog was inspired in part by wanting to let the English-speaking world know that this little project was out there, working to save the wool-growers, the native sheep species of Italy and to do that in an environmentally responsible way. I’ll be talking more about that part of the adventure and translating some of the most interesting information I have found on their blog. In addition I’ll continue to explore, in search of the best workshops, shops, exhibitions and Wool In Italy and letting you know where to find it in person or on the web.

Meanwhile, all the best and happy wool-working!

I selected this post to be featured on my blog’s page at Knitting Blogs.