Knitting yarn from the Sheldon flock of rare Manx Loaghtan sheep. I bought this natural, undyed yarn when I was on retreat at Sheldon in May. It’s a slightly uneven, rather rustic yarn and it took a while deciding what to knit as I realised that my 500g pack was not going to be enough for a big sweater. In the end I went for a cardigan/jacket, knitting the sleeves from the top down so that I knew how long I could risk making them without running out of wool.
The ball-band says "knit as double knitting" though it looked and felt rather more like aran to me. My knitting tension never matches pattern requirements anyway so I decided to play around with needle sizes and see how it knitted up and then work from there (ended up using 5mm). I decided this was going to be my first venture into creating my own garment without a pattern and that I was going to make something to fit ME rather than some idealised size. After the gauge experiments the next step was taking my own measurements, which was a bit sobering as I realised that shaping to go in at the waist was not going to be one of my requirements. I went for a shape that would give plenty of ease around hip and belly while fitting more closely around bust and shoulders. This meant some dart shaping at the lower end of the jacket. Also went for a slightly scooped round neckline, which I find more comfortable than something that comes up close round my neck.
I am modestly pleased with the results. It fits better than most knitted-from-patterns garments I have made – so good not to have a cardigan that strains to fasten at the bottom edge – and I think it will probably work quite well with my winter wardrobe. If I’m honest it’s probably not a yarn I would have bought if I hadn’t been staying at Sheldon where the wool was produced. It’s an unusual colour – french mustard maybe, or cinnamon if we’re talking colour charts, but probably cowpat brown is more accurate - and the yarn still has that redolent sheepy, lanolin aroma, which was quite nice for knitting as my hands felt moisturised, but not particularly what I want my clothes to smell of. (When completed I washed it and used fabric conditioner and I don’t like the smell of that much better than the sheep smell.) I’m still happy to have bought and used it though – another piece of work that carries memories and associations and a good way of supporting the work of a valuable organisation.
(The sheep photo at the head of the post was taken by Cathy Wainwright and was posted on the Manx Loaghtan Sheep Breeders Group)