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I was recently asked whether I had ever finished the sweater I was knitting out of Cambridge’s fleece.

I thought I had posted these photos! The Kingscot cardigan is finished!

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Here it is, on a “photo shoot” with the ewe herself. I love this photo not only because it’s kind of cool that I’m holding the sheep that gave me the beautiful fleece, but because of the onlookers in the background. Makes me laugh every time!

I saw Cambridge recently, and she is very busy growing my next fleece. You can already see, I think from above, but it’s looking a bit lighter in color. She is just CRANKING out the fleece, after a bit of a tough start I’m guessing because of the harsh winter, and I would not be surprised if her fleece was close to 10 pounds. (…of platinum to grey and GORGEOUS. Can’t wait.)

Yes, hawk-eyed friends, that IS a double pointed needle holding the cardigan shut.

Since then, I purchased some buttons made out of deer antler (as an homage to Lucy’s Great Adventure).

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The sweater is softer than I imagined it could ever be — Cambridge’s fleece has been a big surprise on that front, I must say — and it almost looks shiny because the fibers are so lustrous.

I still have another big batch of her fleece left, which was just washed recently —

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— and I am contemplating what I should be making with this fiber. I’m wondering if I can engineer a zipped vest with pockets that will take the place of the felted merino vest that I wear all the time to walk my dogs….to the drawing board….

I had fun processing Cambridge’s fleece. (My first full raw fleece!)

I had fun spinning Cambridge’s fleece.

I had fun making Cambridge fleece into a delicate wisp of a shawl.

How is Cambridge coming along as a sweater, you ask?

Well, splendidly. (I think; so far, etc. with all the caveats.)

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The dark bits of Cambridge that I processed and spun into the grey yarn of a million shades, I was convinced, needed to be a swingy cardigan. I didn’t spin the yarn with too much twist, mostly because her fleece didn’t need it, but also because I wanted to try to make the yarn as airy as possible…there’s nothing worse to me than a sweater that is so heavy in weight that it hangs like a sack from the shoulder seams no matter what you do…and I didn’t think the long wool would be best served spun woolen. (Which I actually may change my mind about, see the P.S. below.)

I wanted a pattern that had a bit more going on than just a plain stockinette sweater, and I made up my mind that Norah Gaughan’s Kingscot (which appeared in Twist Collective Winter 2008) was just the thing. It’s got a very pretty cable and bobble pattern on the front in a diamond pattern, and while the shape was swingy, the back was ribbing which I thought would provide a better fit.

I knew somewhere deep in my brain that the stitch pattern may not show as well with this yarn, and if I wanted the cardigan to be all about the cabling motif, I was better served using a crisper yarn with tighter twist.

Of course I ignored this instinct because I wanted to make this cardigan with this yarn. “Want” in this case totally trumped the logic.

I’m not sure if I am right, or if, ultimately I’m going to be not so right. Not yet, anyway.

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I have a vision for what I want this sweater to be. My gauge was wildly different though, and as this was handspun, so I knew it wasn’t going to be as consistent in gauge as much as a commercial yarn would be. And, I wanted to make sure that while I kept the major design points of the garment, I wanted it to fit me well. This all meant some big modifications. Don’t be scared! This can be done.

So…what were the important things about this sweater for me?

1. The A-line of the body of the sweater. This shape, in my opinion, can be really difficult. I have seen the fly away cardigan that is too tight on a body, and that is not very flattering (unless you are pregnant. I love fly away cardi’s on pregnant women). I needed enough fabric in the front so that even if there were only 3 buttons on the top that it would not gape open in the middle. I trusted that Norah, who has designed gazillion sweaters, had this in mind and that there was a reason that the back was ribbed….so I kept the ribbing pattern in the back.

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2. I did modify the stockinette to ribbing ratio all over the sweater. I could see how, with a tighter twist yarn that you’d need the dramatic decreasing between the ribbing and the stockinette, but I didn’t think I needed quite so much with my yarn. (And I tested this with swatching.)

3. I loved the design on the front of the cardigan. While I toyed with changing the size of the bobbles (to something a bit more pronounced), but in the end stuck with the instructions as written. I’m not sure why I thought I needed to fool with this.

This is where I am now. I couldn’t “see” the sweater as it came off the needles, so I ended up blocking it to the schematic for my size to see how the fabric looked.

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I think I am cautiously optimistic.

Some people, I think, would be bothered by what appears to be subtle color blocking within the garment. I actually am not bothered by it much, because Cambridge is pretty spotty and I love that one sheep can produce so many shades of grey. The sweater is so…HER! So much so that if Cambridge were a human, I’d give her this cardigan.

I am knitting the sleeves now, and I don’t envision any changes except that I may have to do some math to make sure the sleeve cap fits properly…not a big deal. Knit fabric is really flexible!

I also envision changing the button band from as written. While the knitted then sewn on button band is a beautiful, elongating detail on the sample sweater, my seamstress hands (or lack there of) started twitching so I will most likely be picking up the button band along the edge of the sweater and keeping that in a 2×2 rib as the most of the ribbing on the cardigan. And, don’t be surprised if I change the 1×1 twisted rib on the neckline to a 2×2 rib as well for consistency.

Hopefully, the next Cambridge update will be about a finished cardigan!

P.S. As many of you know, hand combing takes out all the short fibers out of the fleece as you create top (the ice cream fluff in the first link at the top of the post). We did take what was left over and put it through a drum carder to create rolags, which I spun woolen and 3-plied into an aran weight yarn.

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It was really soft, and really airy. Soft enough for a pair of wristlets, which has been keeping Cambridge’s Shepherdess warm this past winter.

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You know, this is all to make sure that Cambridge was always on Lee’s mind so she got some good grain this winter! And, it looks like she’s getting a bit lighter so I will be looking forward to what her fleece looks like come shearing in November! (Of course I will be peeking a lot sooner than November!)

Of course I have a photo:

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Cambridge. Remember her?

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Born 1/27/13 at Shepherd’s Hey Farm (she’s #1305), sheared in November 2013 with me stalking her fleece since May 2013?

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And remember that I took the silvery bits of her fleece and spun that up into a lace weight yarn to make a bit of a shawl?

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Well, another part of her fleece met the spinning wheel. The dark grey bits.

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I spun the singles thicker, being very careful not to over twist the singles. This beautiful fleece has a staple length of 6″, and a nice crimp but not as tight a crimp as…say, a Cormo or Merino. And while I wanted to spin these singles worsted for a smooth and silky finish, I wanted the fibers to twisted together but not packed together so tightly that the garment resulting from this yarn would be wool-armor.

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The yarn is a DK-ish weight 2 ply yarn. I wanted to make a 3-season cardigan with this yarn, so while there was a voice in my head that was whispering that I ought to make a 3-ply yarn (I love round yarns!), I thought that I would get a better draping garment with a 2-ply yarn made from this fleece. And we all know that I am quite opinionated about my yarns 🙂

One would think that because Cambridge is mostly Romney that this yarn would be too “woolly”, or “not next to the skin soft”. We will see what happens when this yarn is knitted into a garment. Granted, this is no Qiviut, but I don’t think I’m going to have to wear 3 layers of turtlenecks before I can put on a Cambridge sweater. It is fantastic fleece — and the spinner who got her grubby little hands on the fleece (that would be me) may be improving bit by bit in her spinning skills.

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I will let the photos do the talking on the color of the finished yarn. Whatever words I come up with will not do it justice. But I love it that this fleece is a million different shades of grey (no, not 50), something that I think only nature can create.

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I have a pattern in mind. Norah Gaughn’s Kingscot. I think Cambridge would love being a swingy cardigan that I can wear every day.

Next chapter….Cambridge Meets the Knitting Needles.