It Starts With Wool
As knitters and designers, we understand that how our yarns behave in your hand and in your finished garments is their most important characteristic. Lots of tiny choices along the way go into producing that particular hand feel and that particular kind of finished garment, however, and we want you to be able to understand both how our yarns are made and why they behave the way they do—both because we think it’s a cool story, and because it will help you use them to produce amazing FOs. And it turns out the first of those decisions is probably the most important: what kind of wool were we going to use, and where were we going to find it.
We source all of our wool domestically—fine Merino in white and grey from larger ranches in Colorado and New Mexico, and Corriedale in a variety of natural colors from smaller farmers throughout upstate New York, many of them in the Hudson Valley. Because of the scale we’re hoping to operate at, it doesn’t make sense for us to single-source our yarns, that is, to buy wool only from one or two particular farmers. Instead, we purchase wool that has been “pooled” from across a region and that meets our specifications as to micron count (the diameter of the fibers, a common proxy for softness), staple length (the length of the individual fibers, a common proxy for durability), and color. We can still maintain traceability and specificity this way, but we can also maintain consistency across colors and batches. This should mean that H+W’s yarns behave similarly over time, which is important to us as both knitters and designers.
Forge and Weld are both made from a blend of 70% Merino and 30% Corriedale fleece. Merino is, by all accounts, the most numerous sheep breed in the world, and it’s probably the sheep breed you’re most familiar with. Merino fibers generally have very low micron counts, and tend to be quite soft, but also tend to have relatively short staple lengths, which tends to make them more susceptible to pilling. Corriedale, on the other hand, is somewhere between a long wool and a fine wool (the breed was created by crossing Spanish Merino ewes and English Lincoln Longwool rams), and produces, according to Clara Parkes’ The Knitter’s Book of Wool, “a smooth and extremely durable worsted[-spun] yarn.” Blending Merino and Corriedale fleece gives us the best of both worlds: the majority-Merino mix gives us great softness, loft, and next-to-skin wearability, while the Corriedale adds wonderful natural color and enough strength and durability for heirloom-quality FOs. Forge and Weld are spun in what’s known as a semi-worsted system, which combines some of the airy, delicate bloom of a woolen-spun yarn with the strength, structure, and stitch definition of a worsted-spun yarn, and lets the best natural qualities of both breeds shine through.