Tuesday, January 01, 2008

TA-DAH! Rare Breed Sweater Done!

Can you believe it? And still in time for the cold weather to wear it in!

Rare Breed Sweater front.This cardigan incorporates fleece samples from a total of 17 different rare breeds of sheep:

* The body of the sweater (both the white and the green) is Ryeland.

* The blue for the peeries and seeding pattern is Hog Island.

* The Sheep:
Front top row (from left): North Ronaldsay, Teeswater, North Ronaldsay (to show a different color), Leicester Longwool, California Variegated Mutant, and Whiteface Woodland.

Front bottom row
(from left): Three Shetlands (in different colors) , and a family of four Navajo-Churros.

Rare Breed Sweater back.Back top row (from left): Tunis, Ryeland, Karakul, Jacob, and Wensleydale.

Back bottom row front (from left): North Ronaldsay, Hebridean, Soay, Manx Logthan, and Lincoln.

I have been working on this project for a very long time. The idea for it came during the Online Guild's Hebridean Rare Breed Challenge, back in August of 2002. I only had a sample of Hebridean fleece, and being a project person by nature, didn't want to simply let the yarn sit in a box somewhere. I wanted to do something with it. The idea of being able to show off my Heb yarn as a sheep motif in a sweater came from that.

So I started collecting small amounts of whatever rare breed fibers I could get my hands on. Some were raw fleece, some prepared rovings. Some I purchased, but many of them came as gifts from other fiber folk who simply wanted to encourage me along in this project. I got the fleece for the body of the sweater in February 2003, again from an Online Guild Rare Breed Challenge. This time the breed was Ryeland, and I was able to purchase a kilo of it. I admit that it isn't the softest choice for the body of any sweater, but the amount was enough, and I don't mind wearing turtlenecks with sweaters!

Finally in October 2006, I had enough yarns to actually begin working on swatches and a design. I am neither an expert knitter nor a knitwear designer, but as with most things in my life, I pressed on in the confidence that I can do this, and at the very least, learn a few things along the way.

Actually I have learned quite a bit, as I've had to deal with problems and challenges. Each of this took time to consider the possibilities and make a decision about them. I've had to deal with mathematical challenges, such as trying to work out the sheep motif placement; design challenges, such as choosing the seeding pattern and organizing the yarn colors; and yarn problems, such as running out of green yarn!

Speaking of that green yarn, I took your suggestions and alternated rows of the old green with the new for the button and neck bands. The new green, though an unbelievably close match, still looks "off" in certain lightings. I think if you look closely at the sweater now, you can tell there is a slight color difference between front and neck bands, and the bottom and sleeve ribbing. Hopefully not enough to be too terribly noticeable!(???) Even so, I'm much happier with a green neckband than the white one.

5/8 inch embossed pewter button.Another decision that required a lot of thought was the buttons. The ones I ended up using (pictured at left) are not the ones I bought at SAFF, which, though lovely, just didn't suit the sweater. I did find some adorable pewter sheep buttons at Morehouse Farm, but alas, they were all sold out.

With all that, plus the fact that I am a slow knitter who doesn't work on large projects during the hot summer months, this sweater has been quite the work in progress. There are some knitting flaws, but I'm not planning on pointing those out to anyone. Happily, the sweater is a perfect fit.

So, I've wrapped up an old project on the last day of the old year. Very exciting as I'm looking forward to starting some swatches with my Shetland yarns. And with that I want to wish you and yours a very happy and safe New Year.

Related Posts:
Winter Knitting Project
Rare Breed Sweater Swatches


  1. It's stunning. Congrats on finishing such a great project.

  2. What a wonderful finish to the year Leigh! This is such a lovely knit, and to have watched it grow over the year has been such a pleasure.

    Happy new year : )

  3. How beautiful! and what a lot of work. Will you really wear it????
    Happy New Year!

  4. It's stunning! OMG! Just stunning.


  5. YEA!! It's perfect with the stories you knit in it.

    And using all those samples with the sheep rep - what a great idea that was.

  6. I love it!!!!

    Happy New Year!!!

  7. I have enjoyed watching your progress through to completing this project. The sheep are adorable!

  8. Congratulations!
    I love the idea of the sweater. All different fibre animals and breeds deserve all the attention and credit they can get.
    I'm working on a project with four different fibre animals and a product for each animal. I've just started but it's so inspiring just to think of the animals.

  9. What a wonderful sweater!

    I don't think the difference in color is very obvious. No more so than the difference in dye lots in a commercially dyed yarn (IMHO). I think most (non-fiber) folks would think it's just the way the light hits the different parts of the sweater.

  10. wonderful!! and what a great way to start the New Year!!

  11. This is such a great project, and I've really enjoyed watching it evolve. The finished sweater is beautiful. Wear it with pride!

    And that spotty Jacob sheep just tickles me no end. Fabulous.

  12. Wow. I'm so awed by the beauty of it that I can think of nothing else to say. Wow.

  13. What a terrific accomplishment, and such a tribute to our wooly friends. Happy New Year, Leigh!

  14. OK Leigh we forgive you for being too busy for us! Wow that sweater is great in both idea and execution. Just wish I could touch it and see it on you.


  15. Your hard work paid off. BEAUTIFUL!!!!!

  16. The sweater is wonderful, Leigh! Congratulations on a job well done.

  17. Happy New Year! The sweater is fantastic! What a way to ring in the New Year. I can't wait to see what you follow it up with!

  18. Leigh - the sweater (cardigan) is absolutely beautiful. Congratulations!!! And the buttons are just right - guess I can stop being on the look out for buttons for you - but I do find that everytime I wander past a selection of buttons I think of your sweater.

  19. Congratulations, the sweater is gorgeous. I think the colors look great, what a way to end the year. Happy New Year, and happy new project to start brewing.

  20. YAY! It's beauuuuuuuuuuuuuuutiful - I love it!! Congratulations Leigh, what a gorgeous sweater/heirloom you've created!

    Happy New Year to you! I fell so far behind with everything blog-related, including keeping up with my favorites. I cleared out all those posts waiting to be read in Bloglines and am starting fresh in 2008 :)

  21. What an achievement! A difficult task executed beautifully. Here all I wanted to do was a fair isle out of all different Shetland colours.

  22. Congratulations Leigh!

    The sweater really looks terrific and your perseverance and patience with this project has really paid off.
    I'm sure you will get great pleasure out of wearing it and explaining the sheep to everyone you meet.

    Best Wishes,

  23. Wonderful! You must be so pleased and proud. And I don't think that too many people will be looking at the slight differences in the green on the collar. They will be too busy getting you to name off all the different types of sheep.

  24. Beautiful. I love the story behind each part of your sweater as well. Congratulations on completing such a work of art and love.

  25. The sweater is a true work of art!
    What a tribute to your craft!
    And a perfect TOO...it must feel like your are wearing your portfolio! Awesome Job!

  26. Wow! What a nice looking sweater! Absolutely stunning! You should be proud of yourself, Leigh.

    (sigh...someday I hope to grow up and be productive, like you!)

  27. Perfection! The only reason I detect a shade difference is because I'm looking for it. Wishing you the best in 2008, Leigh - I look forward to it and the technology that we'll learn so we can share the fibering that we accomplish. Pretty cool stuff~

  28. Wow. Quite an accomplishment. Truly something to be proud of. Well done.

  29. Your sweater is beautiful! It is a wonderful design!

  30. Congratulations on finishing the sweater! To me it is a work of art.

  31. Such a wonderful project and beautiful sweater. Congratulations on your accomplishment.


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