The Fibre Co. Story

© The Fibre Co.

Yarns are shaped by the characteristics of the fibers that go into them, and the same may be said of people. For Daphne Marinopoulos, the founder of The Fibre Co., it is safe to say that textiles are in her blood. Her grandparents, immigrants from Greece in the early twentieth century, worked in the famous fiber mills of Lowell, MA, and her father attended the textile trade school there before going on to become a textile engineer for Dupont. Although she had an early interest in handcrafts and fashion, Daphne was encouraged to enter the more practical field of finance, and made a successful career in business and financial management, flying around the world for work, carrying her knitting with her into business class. In 2002, however, she needed a change and, given the opportunity to buy a small mill in Portland, ME, she took the chance and founded the Fibre Co. in 2003.

© The Fibre Co

From the start, The Fibre Co. was about experimentation. Although she had initially planned to partner with local farmers to process their fiber, because she was working at such a small scale, Marinopoulos was able to try out a wide range of different natural fiber types in her small milling machine, using trial and error to find out which blends worked well together and which did not. Although known for smooth, luminescent luxury fiber blends such as Road to China – which combines baby alpaca, cashmere, camel, and silk – one of The Fibre Co.’s main innovations was to combine plant and animal fibres into a single yarn, producing the sort of rustic luxury one finds in Meadow, the laceweight combination of wool, llama, silk, and linen, where the plant fibers stand out and create a heathered effect. These novel combinations of fibers produce yarns that play with qualities of the fibers from which they are made – mohair adding weightless warmth, or silk adding a surprise strength along with its softness and sheen.

© The Fibre Co

The quest for color was one of the main reasons for Marinopoulos’ experimentation with fiber. The different fibers and fiber blends take up dye different – silk absorbs differently from wool, and alpaca from linen. In order to produce the ideal combination of color tones and combinations in a single skein, The Fibre Co. chooses fibers that will produce a richly varied colorway in a single skein. Sometimes that means using caramel colored camel to add a warm undertone, or using silk to give an otherwise staid wool interesting flecks of color, as in Acadia, a combination of wool, baby alpaca, and silk noil; no matter what the combination, yarns from The Fibre Co. are engineered for beauty. Dye blends are produced with the same care and sense of experimentation that goes into the fiber blends: to produce a final palette of 12 to 14 colors for one yarn line, Marinopoulos produced around 85 potential colorways before selecting the ones she wished to bring to market. As the company scaled up and production shifted from the mini mill in Maine to commercial mills in Peru, Marinopoulos traveled to the mill to work with the dyers there to develop a process that would create the results she wanted – strong, artisanal, and deeply evocative of a sense of place.

© The Fibre Co

The palette for each yarn from The Fibre Company is built around a theme, usually with the intent of creating a sense of place. Acadia, though dyed in Peru, brings to mind the colors of the woods in Maine, with rich earth tones combining with greens, reds, and cooler toned neutrals. The palette for Tundra – a surprisingly light bulky weight blend of baby alpaca, merino wool, and silk – suggests the coolness of winter in its icy blues and sunset jewel tones, while a pop of brighter green hints at the coming spring. When the company moved to Britain in 2015, the source of their inspiration changed as well. The colors of the Irish milled Arranmore – a tweedy blend of merino, cashmere, and silk – reflect the dramatic landscape of the Irish coast, with rich blues, greens, and heathery sunset colors.


How does your knitting connect you with your surroundings?

 

--Meaghan

 

 

November 06, 2017 by Guest Blogger

Isager Story

© Helga Isager

The story behind the Isager Yarn company is, like the yarns themselves, a study in contrasts – more particularly the often uneasy tension between creative self-expression and technical expertise. Marianne Isager and her coauthors beautifully capture this story in the book ÅLJ: Åse Lund Jensen – a Danish knitwear designer, which is part homage to Jensen, a notable knitwear designer and founder of the company that would become Isager Yarns, and part reflection on the politics and meaning of craftsmanship. The essays on feminist knitting and knitting as activism, including a mention of the ”pussy hat” pattern from January 2017 give the book tremendous value for the conscientious knitter, beyond the yarn story and knitting patterns.

 

© Isager Yarns

As with Sunday Knits, the Isager yarns sprung from the lack of quality yarns in pleasing colors. In the early 1970s, Åse Lund Jensen was applying for a membership in the Den Permanente – a private craft sales cooperative founded in 1931, which displayed and marketed the work of independent crafters who were not able to run showrooms of their own – and her work was turned down due to the bright, harsh colors of the knitting yarn available in Denmark at the time. Jensen reached out to a woollen mill in Skive, on the Jutland peninsula, and worked with them to develop three durable, yet lightweight yarns: Spinni, ALJ (a 3-ply DK weight yarn), and Hebridia (a thicker 4-ply yarn). As the mill‘s color palette was still not to her liking, Jensen partnered with a friend to develop a color palette inspired by plant dyes, ranging through cooler greys and indigo blues to greens and earthen browns. In order to create more possibilities for the knitted fabric, Jensen developed three tones for each individual color – light, medium, and dark – ensuring that no matter which colors the knitter picked, the results would look as good as if the pattern had been designed for them.

 

© Marianne Isager

Marianne Isager was a student at the School for Decorative Arts in Copenhagen when she met Jensen, who gave a seminar in knitting in 1974. Isager at the time had been focussing on weaving and needlework, but she found the mathematical challenges of pattern design which Jensen presented during the seminar irresistible, and a welcome change from the laissez-faire “hen knitting” approach to the craft at the time. The ethos of “hen knitting” focused on knitting as an act of self-expression, with nothing planned out in advance, and all numbers and shaping left to intuition: “If the sweater was too big — give it to your boyfriend, or to a child if it turned out too small.” Jensen, on the other hand, was adamant about swatching, like her contemporary Elizabeth Zimmermann in the US; Jenson wanted to “raise the level” of Danish handcrafts and teach the importance of the technical knowledge that gives knitters the best chance of creating the desired result – whether that result is a perfect circle with intarsia feminist symbols, or a perfectly tailored sweater.

© Åse Lund Jensen

Isager and Jensen remained in touch after the seminar, the older designer mentoring the student in knitwear design and business skills, while Isager became increasingly involved in the yarn company. In February 1977, Åse Lund Jensen learned she had developed lung cancer, and began to transfer the business to Marianne Isager; by the end of March, Jensen had died at the age of 57. Isager juggled family – including her daughter Helga – her schoolwork, and the management of the yarn company for two more years. In 1979, Isager graduated from her course and focussed her energy full time on the company, now called Isager Yarns.

 

© Marianne Isager

In addition to telling the story of Isager yarns through essays and letters, The ÅLJ Jubilee Collection includes a range of patterns for garments, accessories, and housewares by Åse Lund Jensen, Marianne Isager, Helga Isager, and Annette Danielson. We particularly like the bold visual effect of the Goose Eye pullover, a joint effort of Jensen and Marianne Isager. These patterns feature the meticulous attention to technical expertise that Jensen championed and, as such, can be a source of confusion for US knitters who happen to be less familiar with the norms of European pattern writing. As in Helga Isager’s Amimono collections – including The Artisan, Room 606, and The Map Collection – patterns are graded to a limited number of sizes, usually 3, but occasionally 4. The patterns assume familiarity with basic garment construction, as well as the ability to rework or reverse pattern elements (such as shaping) without wordy explanations. Knitters who have not worked with Isager patterns before are advised to read through the pattern thoroughly before beginning – and go to their LYS (we’d love to see you!) to ask for clarification on points they are not confident about. It might also be prudent to begin with some of the housewares, such as the entrelec cushion cover, just to become familiar with how an Isager pattern works.


We particularly loved the story of how Marianne Isager fell almost accidentally into the role of knitwear designer and yarn company owner, and it got us thinking about our own knitting stories. What drew you into knitting? What’s your knitting story?

 

-- Meaghan

October 09, 2017 by Guest Blogger

Sunday Knits Story

© Knit Purl

The Sunday Knits yarn line was born from a love of color and texture. Carol Sunday, whose designs range from the baroque Kelmscott Cardigan to the sleek Milano Pullover or the modern Madam Secretary, reached a point in her knitwear design career where she simply could not find the yarn available on the market that could embody the full scope of her designs. So she decided to make it herself. While not an expert on yarn production, she did know what she wanted to knit with: yarn that would create a fabric that “was cohesive, luxurious, yet [where] the stitches weren't lost in the beautiful bloom of it,” as she mentioned in an interview on the KP blog last year.

 

© Sunday Knits (Milano Pattern)

Carol finally found a mill in Italy – one that has been spinning and dyeing fiber for more than three hundred years – that could build yarn to her specifications. Using their immense expertise, she worked with their agents to source fiber humanely, ensuring that the sheep from which their Australian merino comes has not been subject to mulesing, the cashmere goats are humanely raised, while the Angora rabbits are raised on farms that are run in accordance with EU Animal Welfare standards.

 

© Knit Purl

The different yarn bases – Angelic, a 75% merino, 25% Angora; Eden, 100% merino; and Nirvana, a 92% merino, 8% cashmere (all of which are available in two weights, sport (3-ply) and worsted (5-ply)) – are designed to work well together and be used interchangeably, creating a rich, beautiful palette across the entire line. This same care and consideration goes into the processing of the fiber, which is kept to a minimum. Carol skeins, twists, and labels all of the yarn by hand in her Illinois studio, so while there may be mill splices, there should not be any knots in a skein. This personal attention also allows a greater level of thoughtfulness to go into the skein itself, which is slightly smaller – 54" – than the average skein, which means that it is easier to wind at home even if you don’t own a swift.


There are bold, beautiful yarns – skeins that sing from the shelf – and then there are the rarer yarns, the ones that make your knitting sing. From winding the skein into a ball, through the process of knitting, Carol Sunday’s yarns are a delight to work with and a pleasure to wear. The reason for this is clear: the combination of high quality materials with thoughtful, humane production.


Which yarns are you happiest knitting?

 

--Meaghan

September 04, 2017 by Guest Blogger

North Light Fibers Atlantic Yarn

© Knit Purl

North Light Fibers Atlantic is a 3-ply worsted-weight yarn made out of Falkland Islands Superfine Merino Wool. Atlantic comes in an variety of solid colors, with sea-inspired names like Bull Kelp, and Teal Inlet. The yarn surely has an interesting story to tell, journeying from island to island as it is transformed from fleece to yarn. 

North Light Fibers, who we featured on the blog last year, is located on picturesque Block Island off the coast of Rhode Island. The micro mill focuses on manufacturing minimally processed yarns. The wool for Atlantic originates from The Falkland Islands, a place quite famous for wool. 

Atlantic is soft, yet also feels quite sturdy. It doesn't feel as susceptible to pilling like a typical superfine Merino. Atlantic is a yarn that will wear well in both accessories and garments, for pieces that will hold up to the wear and tear of everyday life. It seems perfectly suited to creating fluid expanses of stockinette stitch, as well as for something with a little more texture. 

The colors are pretty. Atlantic is offered in neutrals along with some jewel tones to brighten up the palette. The colors probably mirror what is seen on a regular basis on Block Island. Teal Inlet is probably my favorite of the bunch. It's the perfect teal that strikes a nice balance between blue and green. I am also fond of Sea Lion. A gray with slightly brown undertones, a great neutral. 

Pattern suggestions:

Our Roku hat kit comes with one skein of the Atlantic in Teal Inlet. Knit in a 1x1 rib, the Roku Hat is a great match for the Atlantic yarn. The stitches are well-defined, and the yarn has a nice drape, making a good slouchy hat fabric.

Here are some other pattern ideas for the North Light Fibers Atlantic Yarn:

© Brooklyn Tweed

The Romney Kerchief by Brooklyn Tweed is a cute little kerchief pattern that would show off Atlantic's stitch definition and drape. 

 

© Carrie Bostick Hoge

The Shore Cardigan, designed by Carrie Bostick Hoge, would be a great garment for this yarn. It would result in a warm and soft cardigan that would be an excellent addition to any wardrobe. Scots Thistle, a pretty purple, would be a wonderful color for it. 

 

November 07, 2016 by Oleya Pearsall

Knit Purl Minis

© Knit Purl

Have you ever wanted to experience new yarn without committing to an entire skein? There are so many beautiful yarns out in the world, and not enough time to try them all. I wish all of us were able to spend our days surrounded by yarn and get the opportunity to test and play with new yarns all the time. As much as I would love to spend my days lounging in a pile of fluffy yarn, I’m sadly unable to.

I do spend most of my working day in front of a computer or my iPhone, and this is how I get introduced to new yarn. I would say 90% of the time I’m introduced to new yarn, it’s because of a great photo on Instagram. The first thought I have when I see new yarn is, “I wonder what the yarn feels like?”, followed by wishing I could sample the yarn. Being able to try out yarn without having to commit to an entire skein has been something I’ve dreamt of. Knit Purl Minis came out earlier this year, and my dream became a reality.

For those that are new to Knit Purl Minis, they are a way to experience new yarn without commitments. Be warned though — our Minis include yarn you will want to purchase in bulk. Our first edition of Knit Purl Minis included North Light Fibers Water Street, which is some of the softest cashmere/merino yarn. I’ve committed multiple times to Water Street and don’t plan on ever stopping. We are now onto our second edition of Knit Purl Minis which includes the following:

How can one collect Knit Purl Minis? Well, you can either purchase them for $8, or we will gift them to you with any order $75 or more (while supplies last). I know it’s a little early to bring up, but the holidays are already on my mind. For those that are in need of gift ideas, Knit Purl Minis will make a great stocking stuffer!

November 04, 2016 by Laura Oriana Konstin
Tags: Kits New Yarns

My Design Inspiration: Illimani Yarn

ILLIMANI began its journey in the textile world back in 2004, with a collection of clothing knitted with alpaca and llama yarns, mostly by artisans in Bolivia and Peru.  We have worked for many years with knitters, crocheters and weavers from the Andes region, where some continue to use ancient traditional techniques.

It all began when I received a parcel with samples of an alpaca yarn spun in Bolivia that claimed to have similar softness as fine cashmere. I was very impressed with the quality and softness when comparing it to the more widely available pure Baby Alpaca from Peru that we were using as main material for our clothing.  It was then that I decided to switch the focus of the company, and to offer unique yarns for hand knitters that can truly understand and value an exceptional yarn when they see one. In a few months we were importing our first and most beloved yarn, “ROYAL I”. No wonder why Knit Purl has chosen this yarn to introduce it to knitters in Portland.

The secret behind this beautiful yarn is not only that we use the best selection of alpaca. It is also the de-hairing process that is also used in the Baby Llama which is simply taking away all the coarse hairs and leaving just the very fine ones using a new technology. The llama yarn that goes through this de-hairing process is now as fine as the finest baby alpaca. This is certainly changing the llama yarn industry in Bolivia making the baby llama (de-haired) one of the finest fibers in the world.

Take a close look at the label of ROYAL I. It is the same alpaca that we use along with our ILLIMANI logo: 

 

 

Royal I is the knitters dream come true.
The very best selection of alpaca, with 18.5 – 19.5 microns (1% of the alpaca wool production), you have a yarn as soft as cashmere plus all the treats of alpaca to make your knits not just incredible soft and luxurious but more durable and resistant.

Our heathered greys are the best sellers, and probably our signature colors.  These are melanges with natural undyed color and black. Blues and other jewel colors are also quite popular.

I was told by knitters all over the world that Royal I is an addiction. Once you knit with it, it is hard to go back to the other regular yarns. The good news is the price. The cost is significantly lower than any other comparable yarn.

There is no better place to launch this yarn in Portland than in Knit Purl.

- Alvaro Echazú

September 19, 2016 by Guest Blogger

Shibui Knits: Staccato

© Knit Purl


Shibui Knits never ceases to amaze me. They produce some of my favorite yarns that always keep me coming back for more. Staccato happens to be next in line for me to try out. I’ve been hoarding about 20 skeins of it in my yarn stash and finally plan to do a few swatches with it. Staccato is an alluring blend of merino and silk fibers, that is smooth and soft to the touch. It has an elegant sheen that causes the vibrant colors to truly pop.

© Knitbot

I have a couple of ideas about what I would like to make with the Staccato I currently have stored away. I have an in-your-face, firey orange/red that I really want to squeeze a dress out of. I need to do a swatch and see what my options are. I also have a rusty copper that I was going to make a loose tee out of, but now I have new plans for a cropped cardigan. I purchased Home & Away recently, and I have been eyeing the Hancock cardigan ever since. The Hancock (shown above) does happen to take up much more yarn than I have, so I will need to do a little math to see if I can make it work.

Here are a few end of summer knitting projects on my list:

© Juju Vail

Michelada: A little summer pullover full of texture, that will transition effortlessly into fall.

 

© Knitscene / Harper Point Photography

Hanshi Wrap Kit: A simple wrap in ivory with short rows that mimic beautiful brush strokes in black.

© Knit Purl

 Tembetari Cowl Kit: Someone please teach me how to crochet so I can make pretty cowls like the Tembetari. I want to wrap myself in a pretty honeycomb pattern.

August 26, 2016 by Laura Oriana Konstin

Woolfolk Sno

© Knit Purl

I'm pretty smitten with Sno. It's probably one of my favorite yarns. I am slowly working on Julie Hoover's Elmont pattern in color 1/15, with just the sleeves and yoke left to go. I started it before I hurt my wrists last year, and recently brought it back out after I recovered.

As much as I love that sweater and can't wait to finish it before the fall, I must say that got a little distracted when I saw the new Sno colors from Woolfolk.

© Knit Purl

The new colors are all great additions to the lineup: 1/11, a striking cream/navy, 12/15, an alluring maroon/black, and 1/17, a classic cream and mink.

One of the reasons why I love knitting with Sno is because of how amazing it feels. Sno is quite pleasing to knit with, and it makes a downy, soft fabric that you can't resist touching. I know it's been said before, but it really does feel comparable to cashmere. In addition how nice it feels, I cannot get enough of the marled colorways. The barber-poled strands add interest to any knitting project, and ultimately create a kaleidoscopic, mesmerizing fabric. 

© Knit Purl

The new colors are all equally amazing, but the one I want to start with immediately with is color 12/15, the maroon-black. There’s just something so intriguing about this color. It’s dark, but also interesting. My plans? League by Veronik Avery, with 12/15 as the main color, color 12 in Tynd for the saddles, and color 15 in Tynd for the sleeves. I love the idea of combining the marl with the solid colors it's derived from. 

 © Brooklyn Tweed

 

Here are some other ideas for using this beautiful marled yarn:

 

© Interweave Knits

Douillet Sweater by Noriko Ho. I love a good striped pullover, and I enjoy the visual patterning effect of using two different striped marls. 

© Melanie Berg

Mirkfallon by Melanie Berg. This shawl makes good use of the subtler marls, like color 1/2. The marl adds a bit of texture and depth to this beautiful piece, while allowing the lace to shine through.

© Woolfolk Yarn

Tryk Scarf, also by Melanie Berg. I would love to play with different colors in this scarf, perhaps using different colors of Sno for the blocks of contrast color, and Tynd for the main color. This scarf is a great combination of simple and challenging: it's mainly composed of mindless garter, with bits of intarsia to keep you on your toes. 

The splendid array of colors and irresistible softness make Sno a brilliant selection for your next project. 

 

August 15, 2016 by Oleya Pearsall

ITO Kouki

© Knit Purl

What fibers come to mind when thinking of knitting new summer creations? I go straight for linen. I forget that there are so many other options out there that are also suitable for the warm summer days, like nice, breathable cotton or cooling silk. What about paper? Did you know paper textiles have a long tradition in Japan, and they are very much like silk in that they're cooling in summer, and warming in winter? I was unaware of this until I introduced myself to Urugami by ITO. ITO has another yarn that makes a great summer companion.

Kouki by ITO is a lustrous ramie and silk blend yarn. Ramie is a great fiber for those hot days that are still visiting us. Ramie is known for its ability to hold shape, reduce wrinkling, and introduce a silky sheen to the fabric appearance. The silk gives Kouki durability, making Kouki garment-friendly and ready to wear.

Here are a few pattern ideas for these gleaming yarn cones of Kouki:
© Knit Purl
A Hint of Summer: Light weight tee. Classic stripes and a fantastic drape make this tee a summer staple. Choose your own colors or grab a kit and start knitting.
© Jana Huck
Kouki-Hearts: Wrapped in love. This pretty striped wrap is embossed with hearts. The luster of Kouki really highlights the hearts in this pattern.
© Assemblage
Hane: 1 top, 6 options. A top with asymmetric drape, side shaping, and unique sleeve detail. The options are endless with this top. Short sleeves, no sleeves, ruffled sleeves, or a blend. Hane will look pretty in Penguin.
August 12, 2016 by Laura Oriana Konstin

Shibui Knits Pebble

© Knit Purl

The last yarn pick for the Month of Lace is Pebble by Shibui Knits. Pebble is a mix of a few of my favorite fibers: cashmere, silk, and merino. The yarn is soft and airy, with tweed flecks that add another layer of complexity to Shibui Knits’ bold colorways. Pebble is easily held double or triple on its own or with another yarn, making it very versatile.


I used Pebble for the first time when I decided to knit a pint size Veronika pullover. There was a sample in the store that I couldn’t take my eyes off of, and I had to make one for myself. I had just returned from the Painted Hills and I was really inspired by the rust and cobalt color palette out in the desert. The yarn color choices I was trying to pick between reflected the desert essence I was still coming down from. After about an hour of trying to decide between Poppy and Blueprint, I gave up and Keli picked for me. Five months later I had my Blueprint Veronika completed, and I haven’t taken it off since. The yarn allows for the garment to be a great layering piece. I’ve worn my Veronika over dresses, tanks, and as a beach cover-up. Besides Pebble being a complete pleasure to work with, I love the added dimension the tweed flecks give the fabric without muting the vibrant Shibui Knit colorways.


Here are a few fun patterns for first-time Pebble users and those that can’t get enough Pebble in their yarn life:

© CityPurl

Sugar Cane: Free Pattern. A sophisticated slouchy hat with a rolled brim. Sugar Cane is knit in contrasting yarns to create a frosted-effect fabric. Combine two Pebble colors for unique marled fabric or combine Pebble with Silk Cloud for a softer look.

© Julie Hoover

Hart: A light, summer cardigan that will transition nicely into early fall. Hart is a simple cardigan with a subtle lace panel on the back.

© orianalk

Veronika: This was the first project I used Pebble on, and I happen to wear it all the time. Veronika is a cross between a pullover and a poncho. The fabric possibilities are also endless. I only used Pebble for my project, but it can also be combined with Silk Cloud for one super soft pullover.

© Knit Purl

Lorelei Rectangular Shawl: Kit. A classic rectangular wrap with expanding geometric shapes.This will be a fun project to watch grow on your needles.

July 22, 2016 by Laura Oriana Konstin