California Design meets Italian Wool

California design meets Italian wool - JenJoyce and Oropa make a great match!

California design meets Italian wool – JenJoyce and Oropa make a great match!

A tale of two valleys…

Just one ridge over from Pettinago where I went to the spinning workshop and looking down at the border between Piedmont and Val d’Aosta, is Oropa, home of the famous sanctuary of the black madonna that sits above the city of Biella but still well below the crown of the surrounding alps. Sheep that were shorn this spring are grazing on the hillsides while, in the Biellese Valley, a wool cooperative is processing the fleece into a yarn that will be named after the National Park and Sanctuary where they graze: Oropa.

Meanwhile, in California, somewhere in the green between the Sonoma and Napa Valleys, in the shade of the pines, a designer is knitting gauge swatches, thinking and writing instructions for candy striped socks that can start at the ankle and end at the toe without ever breaking the yarn. She’s testing the different sizes and designing a version that is an adorable pair of picot-trimmed baby booties. These are “Penny Candy Socks”.

A tale of two valleys - from Sonoma to Oropa

A tale of two valleys – from Sonoma to Oropa

They came together in my living room, on Lago Maggiore’s shores and in Gemonio’s piazza…

My Penny Candy Socks: "Licorice Whip" in Oropa 1 ply: Aosta Black and Grigio Perla

My Penny Candy Socks: “Licorice Whip” in Oropa 1 ply: Aosta Black and Grigio Perla

If you make these with the magic loop and split the skeins, a sock and the yarn fits in your purse and goes anywhere! When California Design meets Italian Wool they make a great pair!

Happy wool-working!

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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:

http://www.outsideonline.com/blog/outdoor-gear/two-weeks-one-wool-shirt.html

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

http://jimsbikeblog.wordpress.com/2011/08/18/wearing-wool-in-high-summer/

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!