Winter White (Part 3): Brogna from Verona and an English Wool in Italy

Three Winter Whites! Let’s begin with Brogna.

It’s long past Spring but, I still have white on my mind. As  I mentioned in the last posts, Winter White is rarely a true white. The whites that I’m looking forward to getting my needles into come from 4 different sheep breeds from 3 different countries but they all have one thing in common: they are made into yarn here in Italy. Although I’m calling these three ‘winter whites’ – they really belong to spring, the Italian shearing season which normally starts in April can continue through July. My first white is a beautiful creamy Brogna from the hills surrounding the city of romance, Verona.

A pair of socks from

A pair of socks from “Dave’s Toe-Up Sock Cookbook” made with Brogna…che belle!

Soft and delicate, this Brogna yarn is a buttery straw color and plied in a special way to create a texture like that of a fine gold chain.

Soft and delicate, this Brogna yarn is a buttery straw color and plied in a special way to create a texture like that of a fine gold chain.

Brogna is one of the forty-two autochthonous Italian breeds and in the 1980’s it was near extinction with only 50 head registered but now there are more than 1700 purebred Brogna Sheep currently registered in Italy. This wool was renowned in the Middle Ages for its use in fine Verona Woolens and I love the buttery/straw color and the way it takes dye!

Bright Lights shining from Southern England to Northern Italy

Next up: Lowland wool from Southern England, spun with care in Northern Italy, “Bright” is a smooth yarn that’s only slightly thicker than Jamison’s Heritage Shetland and a bit smoother and stronger. The white has a lovely sheen and is in fact ‘bright’ without looking bleached. This quality comes in quite a few colors (and I have quite few of them in my stash) so, having swatched for solid stockinette gauge, I’m now looking forward to knitting

“Bright” from the “Lights” series of Lowland wool from the Wool Box

some colorwork swatches with Bright, using the white as a base color. I’m wavering between Kate Davies elegant “Epistrophy” and Tin Can Knits’ geometric fair isle “Clayoquot Cardigan“…humm, both so beautiful!

Organic Poll Dorset: From France to Italy and back again

This soft, wooly, organic Poll Dorset from Renaissance Dyeing is bred and sheared in France and then Spun in Northern Italy's renowned woolen mills.

This soft, wooly, organic Poll Dorset from Renaissance Dyeing is from sheep bred and sheared in France. The wool is then spun in Northern Italy’s renowned woolen mills.

No mater if it’s ‘bare white’ or dyed with lush natural dyes – this organic wool is worth every penny of the extra cost. Not only that, for anyone concerned about how sheep are handled during the shearing process, this is probably the happiest wool you’ll ever handle! At only 9 euro per for an undyed, 3.53 oz, 380 yard skein, you can afford to try your own dye experiments – then you’ll understand that the natural, stable color line offered by the company is a bargain at 17.50/skein! I’m hoping to use my 3 skeins of white as the base for a transitional sweater with a bit of color…maybe Paper Dolls? Tired of white? My upcoming post will be all about color….meanwhile, Happy Woolworking!

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Somewhere Over the Rainbow Sweater

One of my hand-spun skeins and three beautiful colours from Renaissance Dyeing

One of my hand-spun skeins and three stunning colours from Renaissance Dyeing

French wool, Italian Know-how, Natural dyestuffs:

Having read about the Wool Box’s fabulous dyeing workshop the first weekend in June, I couldn’t resist ordering some wool from Renaissance Dyeing dyed by Andie Luijk herself. You know how it is, we see something on the web but that’s a world away from the experience of holding the skein in our hands! What would ‘poll dorset organic wool’ feel like and ‘natural dyes’ really look like; most importantly, how will it ‘knit up’? When my daughter Robin came home from school she was excited to find it on the living room table and immediately held a skein to her nose, “thank you so much mamma, but it doesn’t smell like wool” she remarked. My girl is used to the undyed wool and naturally coloured fluff that I have been ordering and so dyed wool with no lingering ‘sheep scent’ was a surprise. It does have a smell, fresh and sweet like Savon de Marseille…

Recovering from the ‘discount super wash wool’ disaster

If you read my post about the ‘not-so-super’ discount superwash wool that I used to make my daughter’s Rainbow Sweater, then you know that I’ve become a bit gun-shy about cheap, easy-care wool. So, determined to re-make the Rainbow Sweater in wool worth wearing, and heartened by the fact that Renaissance Dying has their Organic Poll Dorset wool combed and spun by the same non-profit Italian wool consortium that supplies my favourite Italian wool shop the Wool Box, I ordered three rainbow colors to follow my hand-spun amaranth.

Troubadour/Narbonne/Miraval

Troubadour      /      Narbonne      /      Miraval

I haven’t decided which ‘blue’ to add after the green and before the ‘indigo* and violet’ I’m considering Mont Canigou…mmm, I do also have to wait for my budget to allow another three skeins at 17.50 each. Still, that gives me plenty of time to finish spinning some of that lovely red fluff to the right weight and to discover how this luscious-coloured wool knits. A side benefit to knitting for a 6-year-old is that there will be plenty of yarn left over (each skein is just under 400 yards) to work into other projects, I have my eye on this lovely little Kate Davies’ cardigan or a fabulous set of colourwork socks…who knows what wonderful new world of WIP’s will follow the completion of the New Improved Rainbow Sweater!

Meanwhile, I’m working like crazy doing everything but knitting or spinning. I’ve been teaching teenagers how to speak english in a town that’s a 50 min. commute away (both ways but fortunately a paying job), teaching two workshops for kids about the colours in nature at my little girl’s kindergarten (for free but little smiles are another kind of payment), and last but not least working on 4 translation and two editing projects (whew!). I’m ready to get back to knitting and spinning…soon.

Happy wool-working to all of you and thanks for reading and following Wool in Italy!

 

*P.S. I just found out that Andie will be teaching an ‘indigo’ workshop in September :); more about that later!