For this second iteration of Shear, we partnered with Cottage Hill Farm, an 8th generation farm in eastern Ohio that has specialized in sheep since the early 1800’s. This part of Ohio was renowned in the 19th century for producing the highest-quality merino in the United States. Today, three generations of the Moore family continue to work the farm, raising a Merino–Dorset cross. The sheep at Cottage Hill Farm are the descendants of the old Merino fine wool stock, crossed with Dorset, producing sheep that lamb well and yield good meat and wool. Although the crossing diminishes some of the wool's softness, it adds a robust crimp and spring that gives the resulting fleece a bounce and strength not found in fine wool alone.
The yarn we have created from this fiber is a lofty, woolen-spun, 2-ply with next-to-skin softness and an underlying strength. The Dorset crimp and woolen construction yields a yarn that enjoys being worked at an open gauge, as the fiber resists compression and blooms significantly when washed.
We have spun two weights of this yarn: a plump Aran weight and a sprightly DK. Most woolen-spun yarns can be knit at a wide variety of gauges, and while this yarn is no exception, it loves being knit on bigger needles than you might expect, giving it room to bloom and breathe.
Like many domestic wools, this yarn contains vegetable matter, and you will likely notice this in the skein of yarn. It’s best to remove the vegetable matter as you knit, but don't be fooled by this yarn's rustic appearance in the skein. Once you wash it (and we recommend using a liquid soap like Dr. Bronner's or Dawn for your first wash), all the residual dust of the farm washes away, leaving a delightfully soft and cloud-like fabric with a tendency to puff up and round out. Once rinsed clean, a gorgeous cream color is revealed and you’ll see why we chose to call this natural white “Buttermilk”.
The Sheepscot Mitts with their simple texture and utilitarian design are the perfect accompaniment to outdoor chores in cold weather. They are easy to work and suitable for a range of hand sizes. Handknits don't just have to be for special occasions, they can be a useful and hard-wearing part of our everyday lives.
The Sheepscot Hat is a companion piece that echoes the textures of our Sheepscot Mitts. This pattern comes with two options; a fitted beanie or a watch-cap style with a folded-up brim for extra warmth.
Barnes Cardigan is a relaxed, set-in sleeve cardigan featuring a sumptuous shawl collar, generous fold-back cuffs and deep inset pockets. It is knit in pieces from the bottom up in classic repeating cables and the placket is worked along with the front pieceswith integrated yarn over button holes for minimal finishing. Generous sizing and the timeless shape makes this a cozy layering sweater for just about anyone.
Kennaway is a unisex set-in sleeve pullover knit from the bottom-up in pieces. The three-dimensional quality of the Shear Merino-Dorset Aran gives this sweater a powerfully structured appearance but the softness of the yarn and the relatively open gauge makes a for a very comfortable sweater.
Ainsworth is an oversized drop shoulder pullover with saddle. Though the patterning looks complex, it is made up of simple, easy-to-memorize motifs. Even covered in cables, the DK weight Shear works up into a cloud-like fabric with plenty of drape to allow for movement.
Coombe DK is a lighter weight version of the Coombe sweater, featuring all of the possible modifications of its sister pattern. The simple texture has a delicacy as this gauge and makes for a wonderful layering piece in the transition season.
Stokehill shows off the beauty of an expanse of cables knit in an undyed and sculptural yarn. Minimal edgings keep the focus on the cabled center, and a relatively open gauge creates a light and drapey fabric, despite the density of the pattern.
Coombe is a top-down Aran-weight raglan sweater with a timeless texture. Follow the ease guidelines to get either a relaxed classic fit or a more contemporary oversized fit and choose from two styles of sleeves to make it your own. This Aran-weight piece comes together quickly; easy to knit and easy to wear.
We had several goals with this second Shear project; first, to create another breed-specific yarn for the knitter’s toolbox. Second, to connect knitters to both the past and future of US wool production and demonstrate, in a tangible way, the value of years of breeding and care. And finally, to continue our commitment of bringing high-quality, American-raised fiber to knitters at an affordable price.
When knitting with this yarn in plain stockinette, you will see a soft blurriness to the stitches, which is a combination of the fiber itself and the woolen spinning. What this yarn particularly shines in are textures and cables (the bigger and bolder, the better).
The Aran weight knits up as a plump, even fabric on a US 8, but a loftier fabric can be achieved using a US 9 or 10. The DK weight has even greater range and can be knit on anything from a US 3 through a US 7 with beautiful results. Both yarns yield a downy-soft knitted fabric with a lot of character and warmth, but without a lot of weight, making it suitable for anything from baby knits, to cabled sweaters and hard-working accessories.
Knitters have long known that humble materials can make anything from everyday workwear to treasured heirlooms, and we feel that this yarn exemplifies that way of thinking. The patterns we’ve created for this yarn aim to show its versatility; soft but sturdy outerwear for outdoor tasks, a bold cabled throw that still feels weightless on your lap, traditional Aran-inspired cable knits for everyone, and simple, timeless textured sweaters we hope you’ll find yourself living in.
Creating exceptional products for craftspeople has been the mainstay of our business for 50 years, and we continue to keep that at the forefront of what we do. We hope you enjoy knitting with this wool, knowing that you are supporting domestic wool production and the tradition of farming, animal husbandry and land stewardship. And most of all, we hope the goods you produce from this yarn will be a pleasure to use for years and years to come.