Wovember Words: An exploration of breeds

Last week we had Aless Parsons share her thoughts about starting a British breed blanket with her #breedswatchalong squares. TEAM WOVEMBER were bowled over when Hilary Forrest, from Oregon, sent us her picture of her amazing breed specific sampler blanket. Each square is knit in the breed yarn and the name of the breed has been added later, using duplicate stitch. Hilary explains here the inspiration behind the blanket.

Breed Blanket of Hilary F
I first became interested in specific breed yarns when I took a class at a fiber festival several years ago. We tried about 10 yarns in the class and started to learn about the world of breed specific wool. I wanted to try more breeds but didn’t want to just leave the swatches in a bag in the closet so, inspired by some quilts I have seen, I decided to make a blanket from the squares.

When I started to source yarn for this project, I wanted to use commercially processed, high quality yarns. I also didn’t want to pay a lot for shipping, so I decided to get as much as I could from a few suppliers. Blacker Yarns fit that perfectly. When the breed specific yarns went on sale last winter I tried to get as many different breeds as I could in DK or aran weight – I ended up with about 20!  Another five came from Solitude Wools in Virginia, when I saw their booth at a show and the last few from different places. The breeds that I ended up with were very random – I pretty much just took what was available at the time.


Some of the yarns were really wonderful to knit with and some were a little more challenging, but all of them were interesting. The differences in lustre, halo, drape, etc. stand out clearly when you see them next to each other. Some of the yarns that have more variations in the color are truly lovely to look at and, of course, the softer yarns like Merino and Polwarth are wonderful to touch, but every one is beautiful in its own way. I also enjoyed looking up a little bit of information about each breed as I went along.

I didn’t have much of a plan when I started this project. Probably ‘vague idea’ is more appropriate here than ‘plan’. I just dove in and started knitting squares and figured things out as I went along. I did a provisional cast on and did not bind off each square so that I could later graft them together into the columns. After the squares were knit I used duplicate stitch to put the names on. Then I picked up stitches along the side of each column, knit the framing part, and then bound off to the next column over. It was a bit tricky to join the squares as almost every one had a different gauge and number of rows than the yarn used for the framing. The final step was picking up over 1000 stitches to do the outer border.

Hilary, what an incredible and lasting memory of your discovery of wool. It is particularly wonderful that you included wool of ALL different textures and characteristics and chose to celebrate such myriad breeds. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. 

Tonight SUE BLACKER will be here with LOUISE to talk about the KnitBritish Breed Swatch-along and her favourite yarns, which all offer some thing interesting in terms of characteristics and longevity as knitted fabric. The question of “itchy” wool shall also be broached in that post! Don’t miss it! 

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This entry was posted by louisescollay.

13 thoughts on “Wovember Words: An exploration of breeds

  1. This is great, lovely how an idea evolves. Finishing looks very professional too. Something very special to have made and own.

  2. What an inspiration, this was very interesting to read, especially Hillary saying how some of the wool was a bit of a challenge. It must be very nice to touch, all those different textures of wool for your fingertips to travel over.

  3. This is awesome. I have a friend (mad Liz) who is making a handspun crocheted sheep with each new breed fleece she can get her hands. But this is so very portable and great for taking as a teaching aid. Thank you for the inspiration.

  4. Wow, just wow. What a fantastic looking blanket and I love how you pulled it all together with the borders. I was also interested to read about the differences in gauges and knitting squares of consistent size using different breeds. I’m finding with my own swatches intended for a blanket, that even though I’m using DK weight, I definitely need to cast on a different number of stitches for each swatch, depending on breed and stitch pattern. So I need to swatch for my swatch, but I think it will all be worth it in the end. I’m planning to do a similar border with whatever breed becomes my favourite to knit with. But it’s really inspiring to see how great your blanket looks with just the stockinette squares and the duplicate stitch.

  5. applause! I am so glad this swatch-along exists just so lots of people get to see your blanket. I’ve thought of blankets for swatches, but it seemed like it would actually be anti-educational because what square was which breed would be lost or forgotten. Not on yours! This is the best breed sampler I’ve ever seen. And Solitude Wool is oh so proud to be a part of it!!

  6. Such an impressive project! I can see myself getting as far as the bag of squares in the closet–but leaving live stitches for joining later and duplicate stitching the fiber names? That’s a job well done.

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