The Story of June Cashmere

© Jared Heveron

June Cashmere yarn appeals to the heart and head as well as the hands. The yarn, available in both a DK and a heavy laceweight, comes to Knit Purl from the mountains of the Kyrgyz republic in Central Asia via Belgium (for scouring), Scotland (for spinning), and Maine (for dyeing). If a transparent supply chain were all that made these yarns special, though, we wouldn't bother telling you the story – it's the human element (paired with the extraordinary quality of the yarn!) we want to highlight.

 

© Jared Heveron

Cashmere is a fiber born from adversity: the extraordinarily soft fiber we know and love comes from the insulating down of cashmere goats, allowing them to withstand the brutally cold winters in Mongolia and the autonomous region of Inner Mongolia in China which are the sources for most of the finest cashmere in the world. Exceptionally harsh and/or snowy winters in 1999–2002, 2010, and 2016 – known in Mongolian as dzud – have decimated the herds in Mongolia, though, and limited the cashmere supply. Suppliers have been forced to look to other countries to meet the demand for the fiber, including Kyrgyzstan, nestled among other former Soviet ’Stans on the western border of China. Most buyers, sent from Chinese mills, buy cashmere by the kilogram at a low price, putting no emphasis on the quality of the fiber they are buying, with the result that many Kyrgyz herders sheared their goats to increase the yield, thus mixing the cashmere down with the tougher guard hairs: this is where June Cashmere makes a difference.

 

© Jared Heveron

Starting in 2013, Sy Belohlavek – the founder of June Cashmere – became interested in bringing Kyrgyz cashmere to western knitters. Rather than trying to purchase cashmere at the lowest price per kilo, he and his buyers told the nomadic herders he would pay higher prices – for higher quality, pre-sorted fibers. At first, they focused on the proportion of down to guard hairs, but after three years of training, Sy and his team are able to focus on the quality of the cashmere down itself during their annual spring buying trip, paying the herders higher prices for softer fiber. This provides the shepherds with a much needed source of income in a country suffering from chronic underemployment, allowing them to pay debts and invest for their future.

 

© Jared Heveron

June Cashmere also engages in development work to support the welfare of the herders who produce the cashmere, installing heating in schools so children can pursue their education during the winter, as well as repairing water pipes so communities can have access to clean water. This is an essential business goal for the company, as Kanat Anarbaev, the Kyrgyz general manager, discusses in an interview on the June Cashmere blog. In addition to these infrastructure projects, the company also invests in community training, spending time and money to teach the herders not only how to sort fibers themselves, but how to train other shepherds to do so as well. The company is not interested in keeping these small, independent producers dependent on June Cashmere for income, but wants to see them – and Kyrgyz cashmere – become a real player in the global fiber community.

 

© Jared Heveron

What you really want to hear about, though, is the yarn. Both the DK and the laceweight yarns are plied, with five and three plies, respectively. Although both yarns bloom when washed, they do not have the tender halo of most cashmere yarns on the market, such as Cardiff Cashmere, making June Cashmere well-suited to gender-neutral patterns. Both yarns are a pleasure to knit with, having a dry, almost cottony hand, without much bounce, but with very good stitch definition; they are probably best knit at a tighter gauge, which will give the finished product greater resilience and elasticity. In working with the yarn, our tester had occasion to rip out and reknit, and the yarn softened up beautifully, but did not pill or become ragged. Be careful, though when combining colors: the samples we blocked did bleed, so at this stage in the development of these yarns you might want to focus on single-color projects. With this caveat in mind, though, we feel confident in saying that these yarns will only get better with time – and they are already pretty extraordinary!

 

© Jared Heveron

It’s important to think about where your yarn is coming from, as well as how it is produced. June Cashmere yarns are an interesting example of how it is possible for globalization to make a positive impact on the those living in emerging economies, while also bringing a very special pair of yarns to your needles. What's the story behind your favorite yarn?

 

-Meaghan

April 03, 2017 by Guest Blogger

Knitting from the North | Book Review

© Knit Purl

Knitting from the North by Hilary Grant is a beautiful collection of modern patterns that were inspired by traditional nordic and fair isle knitting, as well as the landscape these traditions (and the designer) originate from. Featuring 30 patterns that are bold, graphic and fun, this collection is a modern take on traditional stranded colorwork. The patterns are mostly chilly weather accessories, with a few sweaters. The accessories range from hats, headbands, scarves, cowls, mitts, mittens, cuffs, to mock turtlenecks. All of the patterns are knit in fingering weight yarn.

© Caro Weiss

I love the bold, geometric and graphic quality of the colorwork motifs combined with a palette that includes high contrast, ombres and bright pops of color. These knits are cozy and cheerful, sure to get you through the tail end of winter. This book would also be a great introduction to knitting with color.

© Hilary Grant/Kyle Books


The Arrow Circle Scarf is a wide, long cowl that is knit flat and grafted. I think it looks amazing in black in white. It would be lovely knit in Brooklyn Tweed Loft or Woolfolk Tynd. It would also be interesting to reimagine the pattern as a cowl that is half the length but knit as a tube in the round so the floats are hidden, adding an extra layer of warmth.

 

© Caro Weiss

The Beacon Pom hat is a simple slouchy, ribbed hat with a pom pom. Grant’s choice of color makes it a standout. It would be fun knit up in one of the brighter Ambrosia MCN colors, like Verdigris or Pink Flambe.


© Caro Weiss

I also think the Barley Twist headband is really cute and would look great in Isager Alpaca 2.


If you are interested in colorwork we highly recommend Knitting from the North. Grab your copy here.

 

 

March 20, 2017 by Kira Sassano

Sexy B

About two years ago we had a kit in the store that included the Jet Stream pattern by Heidi Kirrmaier and two skeins of Sexy B by Alpha B. I went ahead and bought the kit for my mom as a gift since I knew it would be something that she would enjoy. What I didn’t realize at the time was how much I was going to fall for the Sexy B yarn the kit came with. The color of yarn the kit came with was an eye-catching deep fuchsia. If the color wasn’t enough to grab my attention, the moment I started to see the Jet Stream take form, I was hooked. The drape the wrap started to take was the perfect mix of light and delicate. Then one day I reached out and felt the fabric, and immediately knew there was no going back.


My mom could tell how much I loved the yarn, so she set aside a nice amount of leftovers that she gifted me. I was beyond elated. I have yet to use the leftovers and actually don’t have any plans on using it. I can’t seem to part with it, so it will end up being yarn that I will cherish and hold onto as a keepsake. This has not stopped me from purchasing new skeins of this amazing luxury yarn. I’m a sucker for alpaca, cashmere, and silk, and Sexy B is a combination of the three of these opulent fibers. Soft to the touch and dyed in vibrant colorways, Sexy B is definitely a yarn that all knitters should treat themselves to.

Here are a few pattern ideas for Sexy B:

© Marcin Duda

Masgot: A shawl with mesmerizing stripes and endless options for color choices. I’ve been eyeing this shawl for a while now, and I think I finally came up with my color scheme: Soot and Stainless Steel for the stripes, and Two Olives Please for the pop of color. Though, I might change my mind since all the completed projects on Ravelry are giving me great ideas.

© Veera Välimäki

Secret of Change: A simple garter stitch shawl with eyelet stripes. This shawl will drape effortlessly in any Sexy B colorway.

© cheryllfaust

Mirkfallon: A rectangular wrap with a modern touch that involves asymmetrical sections of a triangle lace pattern and texture.

June 20, 2016 by Laura Oriana Konstin

Madelinetosh Yarn

The first time I knit with Madelinetosh yarn, it was to rescue me from a possible custom order knitting disaster. I received a request for a neon pink cowl for a bike messenger in NYC and I couldn’t find the right pink anywhere. After a minor panic attack, Madelinetosh and their magical hand-dyed yarn entered the equation and saved the day. The bike messenger was beyond pleased by their super neon pink cowl, and I could breathe easy. After that introduction, I was hooked on Madelinetosh yarn. Their yarn is always soft, and the colors are hand-dyed pieces of a rainbow. Whenever I’m looking for a specific color to knit with, I go straight to Madelinetosh yarn, and I have yet to not find what I need.

If asked which yarn from the Madelinetosh line is my favorite, I wouldn’t be able to answer (as of yet), but I think that might change soon. I was walking around the store this week, and I noticed a beautiful raspberry red yarn that I had never noticed before. I reached for it, and the moment my hand touched it, I knew we were meant to meet. The yarn was Madelinetosh Pashmina in Heartbeat, and it was everything I ever wanted in yarn… soft, soft, soft, and colorful. I’m currently trying to figure out all the patterns I can knit with the lush mix of merino, silk, and cashmere that is Pashmina.

While I brainstorm on all my future projects with Pashmina, here are a few pattern ideas for a some of the Madelinetosh yarn we carry:

Vasa © Paper Tiger

Vasa - This summer, striped top would look great as a solid in Tosh Sock Vintage Sari.

Begonia Swirl - Free pattern. A beautiful lace shawl that is just right for Prairie or Pure Silk Lace.

 

 

Relax © amirisu


Relax - A flowy, oversized T-shirt that I plan on knitting in Pashmina in the not so distant future.

Tambourine - A feminine cardigan with a little vintage flair that is waiting to be knit in Tosh DK.

 

 

Free Spirit © NCL Knits

 

Herbarium and Free Spirit - Herbarium is a lace top that is airy and delicate, and Free Spirit is a shawl that I’m currently swooning over and need to get on my needles. Both of these projects are waiting to say hello to Tosh Merino Light.

 

 

June 10, 2016 by Laura Oriana Konstin

Shibui Linen

“Open windows, open doors
a breeze is warmly welcomed”

Nothing says summer more to me than Shibui Linen knit into a loose cooling top. The first time I worked with linen yarn was when I used Shibui Linen to knit the Otherside tank for a store sample, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Shibui Linen is a light and crisp yarn with a chain ply structure, that will give your garment the perfect drape. It also comes in bright, vibrant colors that are summer ready.

 

Here are a few summer tops that will knit up nicely in Shibui Linen:

© Laura Oriana Konstin
Otherside: This top is supposed to be slightly fitted, but the store sample I made was four sizes larger than my size, and it ended up turning out exactly how I would want to wear it. If you want the perfect drapey and flowy tank I suggest doing the same and going up multiple sizes.

 

 

© Andi Satterlund
Zinone: Your options are endless with this pretty lace top. Choose between a partial-lace back or a full-lace back, and a cropped length or a full, hip length to make the perfect breezy, summer top.

 

 

© Shibui Knits
Square: A modern statement piece with a unique neckline that is high in the front and lower in the back. The sheer side panels give it added contemporary flair.

 

 

© Knit Picks
Freebies: Split Back Tank is a free pattern that is perfect for summer and Book lover Valentine is a fun little bookmark to make with any leftover Shibui Linen yarn you might have.

 

June 06, 2016 by Laura Oriana Konstin

A Few Favorites

 

I always have such trouble picking favorites. Ask me what my favorite food is and I will tell you that I love all food. Ask me what my favorite television show is and I will tell you anything that I can knit to. Ask me what my favorite ice cream is and I will tell you vanilla bean. The last one doesn’t prove my point one bit, but I really wish I had some ice cream right now to help me get through answering the next difficult question. Who is my favorite designer?

How does someone even answer that question? How can I only pick one designer? I can’t even choose ten without remembering another ten that I love just as much. So please bear with me as I try to share a few of my favorite designers. Maybe our readers should be the ones grabbing some ice cream right about now, because this is going to turn out to be a laundry list of favorites.

Power Trio: Norah Gaughan, Julie Hoover, and Michele Wang. If I see a pattern that I like, nine out of ten times it is designed by one of these three magnificent ladies. They are masters of intricate designs that are chic and still have a simplicity to them. Their patterns look like beautiful pieces of art, yet they aren’t overwhelming and still allow the knitter to have the confidence to be able to knit their designs. I’m currently knitting the Beatnik sweater by Norah, Frontenac dress by Julie, and I have Snoqualmie by Michele in my queue.

Little Ones: Pernille Larsen and Paelas Paelas. I get more joy out of knitting things for others than I do for myself and I like the idea of a fast knit. So I thought, why not combine the two and I came up with baby clothing. There are a few people I follow on Ravelry that have been knitting the prettiest baby clothing lately, which is how I found Pernille Larsen and Paelas Paelas. They both make designs that look fun to knit, and would look adorable on any child. I’m obsessed with the Clover tights by Pernille Larsen and the Quick Knit Suit by Paelas Paelas is the cutest little jumpsuit. Both of these designers are quickly becoming a favorite of mine for all things baby.

Rural Femininity: Pam Allen, Annie Rowden, and Carrie Bostick Hoge. I’m not sure what it is about these three designers, but their designs always make me think of a beautiful secluded farm, where I live part time in my imagination. Their designs are feminine and delicate, yet I still feel like I can get things done in them. These ladies are who I flock to when I want to feel beautiful and a little rugged all at once.

Some other staff favorites:
Summer adores Julie Hoover’s sweaters and photography.
Linda enjoys Melanie Berg’s shawls.

May 23, 2016 by Laura Oriana Konstin

What I Listen To While I Knit

What do you do while you knit? Do you listen to music, watch television, or maybe you put your favorite podcast on? I do all three of these, but I find listening to podcasts while I knit the most enjoyable of the three.

These are the podcasts that I spend the most time listening to while I knit:

The Moth: A podcast dedicated to the art and craft of storytelling. Most have probably heard of The Moth and/or have been to one of their events. I started listening to The Moth about two years ago and haven’t stopped. The stories that are told are truly epic and many of them have made me laugh hysterically and sob uncontrollably. If you want to be thoroughly entertained while knitting, I suggest giving The Moth a listen. You won’t be disappointed. I also highly suggest going to one of their events as well, either as a listener or as a storyteller.

TED Talks: I went to an event in 2010 (possibly 2011) where the speakers were discussing neuroscience. I was chatting with a friend about the event and they sent me a link to a TED Talk asking if I had ever watched it. In fact, I hadn’t and I had no idea what TED Talks were. The TED Talk they sent me was Jill Bolte Taylor speaking about the insight she had when she had a massive stroke. It’s an amazing story and since then I have binged on TED Talks. The subject matter of TED Talks usually varies, but they mostly focus on technology, design, academic, cultural, and scientific topics. You can get the audio only version of TED Talks, but I enjoy putting the videos on and listening to them as I knit.

Gimlet Media: Where do I start?! Gimlet Media is a company that is focused on producing high-quality narrative podcasts. One of their podcasts and actually the first one I started listening to is StartUp, which is about the creation of Gimlet. They now have six podcasts that are all pretty amazing, but the two that I’ve listened to the most are Reply All and Mystery Show. Reply All is described as a show about the internet. The description might not sound very entertaining, but it is! There is an episode called The Rainbow Pug where the owner loses her dog on the internet, and PJ and Alex (the hosts) go looking for it. It’s an episode that will cause you to go through all kinds of emotions. Mystery Show is my other favorite Gimlet podcast and it’s about solving mysteries. I’m anxiously awaiting the next season. A friend of mine wrote to them giving them a mystery to solve and I’m curious to find out if they picked it.

I recently realized that I’ve never listened to a podcast about knitting or fiber so I tried giving it a shot the other day. So far I’ve listened to Woolful, which was recommended to me by Lacey, our Knit Purl marketing guru. She sold me on it by her lovely description. “I personally like Woolful because it gives insights into the makers of the fiber community. Learning more about the makers and how they came to love fiber. Also, it feels personal--as if the guests are chatting with you one-on-one telling their story.” I’m only one episode in so I can’t report back on much other than I plan on listening to another episode. The only other knitting related podcast I’ve had time to try out is The Fat Squirrel Speaks. They are actually YouTube videos that Amy Beth makes, so I guess it’s more like a vlog, but so far I’m enjoying them.

Images © Visual Hunt, Ted Talks, & Woolful.

April 22, 2016 by Laura Oriana Konstin
Tags: Favorites

Bring on the Sun with Zooey Yarn

Stack of Zooey yarn

Last week in Portland we had a little taste of summer. Sunglasses were being worn, the sun was blazing, and I did multiple happy dances. The weather isn’t as wonderful as it was last week, but thanks to the brief snippet of summer I feel refueled and ready to handle the April showers that are sure to come.

Our brief heat wave reminded me that warmer days are right around the corner and I need to start planning my knitting projects, which means picking quintessential yarn. For summer knits, I like to pick breathable fibers that feel nice against my skin, and Juniper Moon Farm has the ideal yarn for all things summer with Zooey.

Zooey is a blend of cotton and linen yarn that comes in an assortment of bright colors. The linen allows for the finished fabric to have a great drape and the cotton adds the softness that linen is usually missing. We have a shop sample of the Sommer Top, which sealed the deal on needing to try this yarn out. The fabric was cool to the touch, silky soft, and had great stitch definition.

Here are a few patterns that will pair nicely with Zooey:

Morning Mist

© Annie Rowden

Morning Mist: This is a simple stockinette top with a textured lace panel that adds a pretty surprise to the back of the top. The pattern calls for two colors of yarn, but this top will look equally beautiful in a solid color.  

Odele: A chic effortless T-shirt. This is the perfect warm weather piece to add to your wardrobe and you can knit one in every color of the Zooey rainbow.

Medano Beach

 © rililie

Medano Beach: Whether you are traveling on vacation to a warm, exotic place, going to the farmer’s market, having a picnic in the park, or heading to the beach, this is the perfect tote for being on the go. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that the pattern is free. 

Cordia Tank

© Kerri Blumer

Cordia Tank: The Cordia is a sleeveless top with a cable panel for added detail. This is the top that got me excited for summer knitting. It calls for sport weight yarn, but I’m confident that I can make this top work in the array of Zooey colors. I also would love to convert this top into a dress.

Baby Bloomers: These super cute bloomers are a must for all the summer babies out there.

April 11, 2016 by Laura Oriana Konstin

Brooklyn Tweed: Ganseys Collection

It might be spring, but it’s still cool enough to enjoy the new Brooklyn Tweed Ganseys collection. I’m always left impressed and speechless with the balance of detail that Brooklyn Tweed puts into each pattern. It’s always just the right amount of detail to keep the knitter engaged, and also end up with a timeless, exquisite piece to add to their knitwear collection. The Ganseys collection is no exception to this, with intricate cables, rich textures, and lace motifs that pay homage to the seaman’s sweaters of the British Isles. This collection will make you long for a trip to the beach on a cool, breezy day, a lovely boat ride, and year-round sweater weather.

Here are a few of my favorites from the collection:

Vanora: Delicate cables mixed with great texture makes the Vanora pullover one of my favorites from the Ganseys collection. When I look at this sweater I think of sitting on my friend’s sailboat in Sausalito on a sunny day. The wind has started to pick up, the sun is starting to set, and the Vanora is what I reach for to keep me warm. The pretty details of the Vanora would show up best in a light color. I’m a sucker for anything blue, so I’m thinking of making one in Faded Quilt.

Forge: Two of my favorite things: hats and cables! Upon first glance, I thought the OXO cable motif was actually XOXO, which I thought was quite fitting. Hugs and kisses to keep your head warm. When I get all my work in progress projects off my needles, I will be jumping to start on the Forge watch cap. The cables, texture, and faux fold-over brim will make for an interesting and engaging knit. I usually like my hats in neutral colors, but I think it’s time to add some color to my hat collection and Thistle is calling my name.

Fairweather: Feminine, elegant, and intricate. The Fairweather pullover is my favorite pattern out of the Ganseys collection. A pullover that can be used for layering during the cooler seasons over your favorite button-up, or over a tank during the spring. The pretty lace motifs add a delicate touch to this beautiful pullover. The Fairweather will look beautiful in any color, bright, light, or neutral. I’m torn between knitting one in Blanket Fort, a pretty lilac, or Cinnabar, a bold poppy red.

All images © Brooklyn Tweed.

 

April 08, 2016 by Laura Oriana Konstin

Keeping it Shiny, Happy, and Bright

Who’s ready for some summertime knits? I might be getting ahead of myself by skipping spring and jumping straight into summer, but I’m ready for around-the-clock sun. The trip I took to Death Valley a few weeks ago is partly to blame for my overwhelming longing for warmer weather. I spent four days in Death Valley camping, admiring the Super Bloom, witnessing breathtaking landscapes while hiking every trail I could find, drinking gallons of much needed water, and spending my evenings gazing up at the stars.

The worst part of my trip was being greeted by rain and a gloomy sky upon my return to Portland. Instead of letting the weather bring me down, I decided to invite the sunshine in wherever I could. I had my friend paint my nails in tropical colors, I started to wear beautiful bright tops, and I started to think about summer knitting projects.

I tend to get inspired by yarn first, and Wool and the Gang’s Shiny Happy Cotton yarn is just what I needed to help remedy me from my rainy day(s) slump.

Wool and the Gang Shiny Happy Cotton Yarn

The name Shiny Happy Cotton rings true — with bold, electric colors, this yarn is sure to put a smile on your face. With a slight luster and endless color choices, this soft Peruvian Pima cotton yarn is ready to jump on a pair of knitting needles. I know my knitting needles are patiently waiting to be introduced to the following projects:

 

 

Le Chic Dress

© Wool and The Gang

Le Chic Dress: Stripes. I’ve probably mentioned this in another post, but I’m dying to knit a dress and this dress is on my list. I love stripes, and Le Chic has stripes, blocks, and lots of colors.

 

 

The Last Dance Dress

 © Wool and the Gang

The other dress that is on my knitting list is another striped beauty, The Last Dance Dress. A little reminder that when knitting with multiple colors you should always swatch and block with all the colors you are using, just to make sure no bleeding occurs.

 

 

Uma Top

  © Wool and the Gang

Uma Top: Halter. I had a top like this that I stained and ruined, and have yet to replace. Now I can replace my beloved halter top with the Uma in Lipstick Red.

Florence Sweater

 © Wool and the Gang

The Florence Sweater: An easy breezy top that can be used to throw over a dress or as a beach top. I might have to make one as a beach cover up for my friend who put in a request for knit swimwear.
March 18, 2016 by Laura Oriana Konstin