Once upon a time, I just knit. Now, I think about my materials, and have joined the sisterhood of knitters who want to make their own and know where it all comes from. (Sorry, guys, I know you're there and I love you but we're in the majority!) Sometimes though, knowing where it comes from is as important as making my own yarn.
In reflecting back on my prior post about my lusekofte which I did in Heilo, I thought about something I heard on the Knitpix podcast several weeks ago. Kelly, in Episode 4, suggested choosing wool for a sweater's use or intended wear based on the qualities the sheep's fiber possesses. Those qualities are determined as a sheep variety acclimatized genetically to that area.
For example, Kelly points out, Norwegian sweaters are historically knit from yarn from local sheep that withstand the cold climate in the northernmost parts of the northern hemisphere. The fleece on these sheep has long fibers, which make them durable and good for outdoor wear. The fibers have a wavy crimp, which sheds water well. The fibers are a little shiny.
Heilo is "pure Norwegian wool" but the label states no further indication of breed or variety of sheep that composes it. One assumes that the sheep contributing to it live or lived in Norway. In the photo above you can see how this nice crispy yarn also lends itself to stranded colorwork (it's the red and white sock I'm working on).
Spaelsau is a breed of sheep native to Norway, but according to wikipedia, only 20% of sheep existant in Norway are spaelsau. (I cannot spell this word "spaelsau" correctly here at blogger, the a and e are supposed to be smushed together into the phoneme which is actually a whole entire letter in Norwegian). Landrace is the term used to describe a variety of animal native to a particular area that has genetically adapted to that area, as opposed to a "breed" which has been genetically bred to attain certain characteristics. Spaelsau are considered by some to be Norway's landrace sheep.
A couple years back, Dale published a book containing updated versions of sweaters from the 1950's, book 52. I love this collection although I've only done this one, 5210:
Kelly's podcast helped me understand about how qualities of fiber determine the type of resulting yarn, and how in turn that helps one to select breed of sheep or yarn content for a particular project. This episode is from 2007, I'm behind! I spend alot of time in the car for work, and I am a religious knitting podcast listener. Check out the array on itunes.