Friday, 17 October 2008

manx loaghtan

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)


  1. Mum, i LOVE this. It suits you so well. I wouldn't know where to start in designing my own thing.

    Gorgeous. hope you don't smell too sheepy!!

  2. Wow, this is lovely! How clever of you to do this. Karen x

  3. Dear Miss Blue Hands,

    My name is Jackie and I work for the Subject Centre at the University of Southampton. We really love the picture of the Manx Loaghtan sheep on your webpage and would like to use it in a calendar that we are making for 2011.
    The calendar will be used in schools by teachers to promote languages. We would like to use the sheep picture for the month of June where the language will be Manx. If this is your own picture then would you mind us using it? We would send you a free copy of the calendar and make sure that you take the credit for the picture.

    Best wishes


  4. Jackie, this is not my picture and I am embarrassed to discover that I used it without attribution back in the days when I was relatively new to blogging. A little bit of further googling has reminded me that I found it on the Manx Loaghtan Sheep Breeders Group and it was taken by Cathy Wainwright in 2007, so please approach them for your permission. Moira

  5. Very Nice knitting :-)

    I have a problem with the wool smell when it gets too noticeable, and I have been wondering if it can be washed out, or if it is best for the wool to keep as much of the lanolin as possible?

    I am still experimenting with different approaches but so far I have found that the wool/silk wash from Ecover really does a good job to freshen up "woolly" smelling new and old garnments. It some how works differently than other wool detergents.

    Regards from Norway