It’s been such an exciting week here at BT—we’ve introduced our Fall ’15 collection as well as the newest member of our American-sourced and spun yarn family: Quarry. This yarn has been in the works for quite some time; yesterday I checked back over my notes to see just how long we’ve been kicking the idea around behind the scenes: my first discussions with the mill in Harrisville about developing a chunky weight date all the way back to late 2013!
I’ve always loved working with “unspun” yarns (the most well-known unspun yarn in the industry is probably Plötulopi in Iceland) for their unique lightness and spongy hand. When I first started working with the Wyoming-grown Targhee-Columbia wool that we use in our Shelter and Loft lines, I loved the character of the fleece and thought that it would be fun experimenting with an unspun version that would allow the intrinsic qualities of the wool to shine. Since the staple length of Targhee is on the shorter side (especially when compared with longer, coarser wools that are traditionally used for unspun yarn construction), I knew we’d probably need to come up with something more creative to give the look and feel of a roving yarn without sacrificing structural integrity.
In the end, we landed on what’s called a “mock twist” in the spinning industry—a type of yarn construction that creates a faux single-ply look by way of combining separate plies of sliver (a single ply of unspun wool fiber with no twist whatsoever) together with a gentle ply twist. When I learned about this type of spinning, it really got my gears turning (no pun intended).
After some trial and error with ply count, twist strength, and so on, we ended up putting together a chunky mock-twist yarn composed of three individual (unspun) plies. The result is a yarn that looks like a roving-style “singles” but maintains some desirable qualities from a 3-ply yarn construction: a round structure (great for stitch definition—Quarry really loves cables and brioche) as well as more tensile strength than a single-ply roving yarn. It’s still quite softly spun of course, but has a built-in structure that makes it behave more interestingly on the needles than other non-plied prototypes we tested.
And what about the name? Quarry?
When the first tests of the final prototype were happening at the mill last summer, I happened to be on a trip to Arizona visiting the Grand Canyon (oh the beauty of that place!—that’s a subject for another post entirely) and was experiencing color inspiration overload (I’ve included a few of my photos from that trip here). One of the unexpected surprises in developing Quarry was the way that the the mock-twist construction affected the appearance of the blended colors. The heathering that comes from mixing pre-dyed wool before spinning appears differently in Quarry than it does in Shelter and Loft. Rather than creating traditional tweedy flecks, the colors mix in a more painterly, striated fashion (see the first photo in this post for a good example). This beautiful texture really reminded me of the tonal colors and layered patterns that abound in the canyon—and the concept for a palette inspired by geology was born.
I’m excited to finally be able to share this new yarn with you, and introduce it to you with some of my current knitting projects. This week I’m starting in on a Cowichan-inspired colorwork “camping vest” for my first rainy season back here in the PNW using three colors of Quarry. If you’re curious to see how the yarn knits up, I’ll be sharing my progress here on the blog and on my shiny new Instagram feed (@jared_flood) as well.
I hope you enjoy this new yarn we’ve created—I look forward to seeing what you’re knitting with Quarry, too!