A Year of The Great White Bale

Lot 4 of the Great White Bale! Good-bye letter and pin with 600yds DK weight yarn!

Lot 4 of the Great White Bale! Good-bye letter and pin with 600 yds DK weight yarn!

Yesterday I received the last parcel of yarn from Clara Parkes and the Great White Bale Project.

From the first batch of fibre - this has been a carefully planned learning experience!

From the first batch of fibre – this has been a carefully planned learning experience!

I now mourn the ending of an interesting and informative project.  I have learned so much about the yarn industry, how yarn is created and dyed and the decisions and time frames needed to first envision, and then create the yarns that we work with.

Not all of the learning was positive.  The yarn industry on this continent is pretty fragile.  There has been so much outsourcing of wool production over the last 20 years to cheaper mills and factories all over the world that the local industries are struggling to survive.  “Buy local” has so much more meaning now!

Lot 1 - soft and very lofty mule spun merino.

Lot 1 – soft and very lofty mule spun merino.

In Canada we have a fairly strong milling industry.  Not large mills, but many small mills across the country.  The bulk of the mills are in Eastern Canada and quite a few are fairly large.  In Western Canada there is a largish Mill in Carstairs Alberta.  And more locally there is a smaller mill on Saltpring Island.

Lot 1 capelet - before painting.

Lot 1 capelet – before painting.

It was last December when Clara Parkes posted about the Great White Bale Adventure in the Knitter’s Review.  I had just received a cheque for a design and had a little extra money burning a hole in my pocket.  I made the decision in an instant and have never looked back.  I wanted the whole experience.  The yarns have been stunning and the stories have been varied and educational.  I feel that I have made a new friend in Clara.  The $350 cost was more than reasonable for both the education and the yarns that I have received!

Lot 1 - capelet - after painting.

Lot 1 – capelet – after painting.

I hope that Clara writes a book about The Great White Bale.  I would love to have a book in hand as I re-read what we learned in this last year.

The yarn was all from one farm.  The sheep were Saxon Merino.  A wool with incredible softness and crimp.  We saw the sheep and learned their story and then we played with their fibre and it was turned into yarn.

Lot 2 - was two equal hanks of fibre.  One natural and one kettle-dyed with madder, a natural dye.

Lot 2 – was two equal hanks of fibre. One natural and one kettle-dyed with madder, a natural dye.

Lot 2 - shawl

Lot 2 – shawl

From the first shipment of fibre to Lot 4 of the Great White Bale, this has been a carefully planned experience.  Lot 1 was created in the last Mule spinning mill in the USA and left entirely natural.  The Lots were each spun at different mills, each looking for a different look and finish.  When dyed, each dye process was different.  As a learning experience this has been a success; as yarn stash enhancement this trip was a haul of unique proportions.

Lot 3 - merino mixed with silk and hand-dyed with a dye especially blended for us.  An advance sampler copy of the Yarn Whisperer was included!

Lot 3 – merino mixed with silk and hand-dyed with a dye especially blended for us. An advance sampler copy of the Yarn Whisperer was included!

Lot  3 - is my favorite!  It feels like working with velvet!

Lot 3 – is my favorite! It feels like working with velvet!

Clara and Jane took each yarn, swatched and played with it; they then shared their experience and knowledge with us.  Gauge and needles sizes were suggested, possible projects outlined, nothing was left out.

Lot 3 - a lace shawl in the making.

Lot 3 – a lace shawl in the making.

The yarn from the Great White Bale has been incredible.  Soft and lofty and each one different, with properties and characteristics unique to each lot.  Some have been undyed, and some dyed.  Lots 2 and 4 included both dyed and undyed.  One skein of lot two was hand dyed with Madder and two skeins of lot four were commercially dyed.  Lot three is heaven, the saxon merino blended with silk, and then hand-dyed.

Lot 4 - The colour is my favorite colour the yarn feels beautiful and even matches my new bag from Fiona!

Lot 4 – The colour is my favorite colour the yarn feels beautiful and even matches my new bag from Fiona!

Every step of the process to create each hank of yarn I have witnessed and been able to comment on.  I know my skeins of yarn.  I know their story from sheep to garment.  This was how our yarns used to be made.  The designs from Shetland, Iceland, Estonia and all of Europe, all started with small farms, their sheep and the yarns they crafted from their sheep.

I know my yarns.  I love wearing the garments that I have created so far.  I know that I will love wearing what is still to be knit!

  • Lot one became a capelet.  Knit and then painted with dyes.
  • Lot two became a shawl, with the edging from the undyed hank and the body from the dyed hank.
  • The left-overs from lots one and two became a hat.
  • Lot three is still under construction – but will be a triangular lace shawl.
  • Lot four will be a vest, knit top down with the undyed at the top for painting and the gorgeous orchid colour will be the bottom.  I am going to knit the vest in the frost flowers pattern.

    Lot 1 - capelet.

    Lot 1 – capelet.

It is all in the details!

It is all in the details!

The Great White Bale Experience came at a time when both opportunity and funding meshed.  That doesn’t always happen – when it does – take the leap.  You will seldom be disappointed!

Happy Knitting

Lynette

About letissierdesigns

March 2017 - My new site is now up and functioning. I can blog, share my thoughts and photographs, and sell my patterns! So much happening in my life and all is creative and forward moving! Thanks for taking the time to stop by. Sept 2015 - I haven't updated this in a while! Still knitting, always knitting, I still teach and work at Mad About Ewe Fine Yarns. I also have designed for Vogue Knitting, Koigu Magazine, Zealana, Jimmie Beans, and Malabrigo, As of the beginning of 2015 I also became creative director of the Buffalo Wool Co., a new job that just flows along with what I already do. I am a knitting teacher and knitwear designer. I work full time in my LYS, Mad About Ewe Fine Yarns. I recently was 1st runner up in a Vogue Knitting Design Competition called the Magic of Mohair. My design was featured in the Early Fall 2011 Vogue Knitting. I will have another design in the Vogue Knitting Winter 2011 edition. I have recently purchased a Canon Rebel Camera and have started taking way too many pictures. I love this site for sharing my thoughts and pictures. Life is good!
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9 Responses to A Year of The Great White Bale

  1. Ann Peake says:

    With modern, rapid progress in all industries,we lose touch with the beginnings of all manufacture and how it developed out of necessity to improve production of goods made entirely by human energy and hand.The maker’s life was woven (excuse the pun) into the goods produced and the goods themselves affected the lifestyle,health and wealth of the persons and families involved.
    I enjoyed your blog and your experience with “The Great White Bale”.

    • Good Morning Ann,
      Thank-you for taking the time to both read and respond to this blog posting. It is great to “see” you elsewhere on the net!

      I agree life has gotten to busy and removed us too far from “how” part of the process of creating those items we wear and use. It is up to us to be “mindfull” in our daily lives of those things!

      I hope that your holiday season is both bright, merry and warm!

      Lynette

  2. Lynne Bresselaar says:

    Lynette, I love this concept. Any idea if the Great White Bale will be repeated anytime soon? Also like Fiona’s bag.
    Lynne

  3. Lynne Bresselaar says:

    Does Fiona display her bags online?

    • Hi Lynne,
      She will show some, but usually Fiona works to order. She likes her customers to pick out their fabrics. If you are willing to give her some colours and let her work – you won’t be disappointed!

      Lynette

      • Lynne Bresselaar says:

        Thanks Lynette. Actually I’ve been doing a bit of bag-making myself, and am interested in what works and what sells. I’ll show you in April.

  4. Pingback: Fall Knitting | Le Tissier Designs

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