A Review: Cestari Sheep & Wool Company’s Traditional Collection

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Hello everyone! Tara here—

Are you still looking for yarn-y gifts to give this holiday season, or a really great wool yarn to make a gift with?

You have to check out this yarn from Cestari Sheep & Wool Company!

Cestari Sheep and Wool Tradtitional Collection Undyed

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The Cestari Sheep & Wool Company is a small family business that has been in Virginia since 1968. It’s owned by Francis Chester, who has been raising sheep for 70+ years and works with his wife and three daughters on the farm.

The family prides themselves of the fact that all of their wool comes, not just from their own farm, but “from other reputable ranches throughout the Unites States.” They raise and sheer their sheep themselves, processing the wool (a little differently than most commercial wools are processed, but I’ll get into that later) and dying it themselves as well. They don’t work with distributors either, not just because they want to build a relationship with their customers, but because it helps keep their yarn affordable.

I recently played with some of the undyed wool from their Traditional Collection and I’m in love!

The Traditional Collection is a 100% medium (worsted) weight Targhee/Columbia Wool yarn. You get about 170 yards per skein at 100g/3.5 oz.  If you plan on making a sweater or another larger project, you can get a discount on the yarn by selecting their “Buy-The-Bag” option, which has 10 skeins in each bag. One skein could make a really warm hat or a pair of mittens.

Cestari Sheep and Wool Tradtitional Collection Undyed

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First, I have to talk about the colors.

When I think of undyed yarn, I almost always think of white yarn.

Francis and his family use white fleece AND black fleece, which allows them to blend the two colors together to get multiple shades of yarn without using a drop of dye.

The Natural White shade is a true cream color and it was probably my favorite of the shades because of how well the stitches showed up in my swatch of it. Like every yarn, the darker it is, the harder it becomes to see the stitches. I’m a huge fan of using dark yarn though (I’m clumsy and don’t like to worry about staining projects that I spend hours working on), so working with the Dark Natural Gray shade was as much of a joy for me as the Natural White.

Now, the gray shades are all more brown than you might expect when you hear the word “gray.” This is because the wool itself is considered gray. The Light Gray shade was more of a tan and the Natural Medium Gray was more of a taupe shade. The Natural Dark Gray was a dark taupe, almost like a cedar brown, and it looked a bit heathered from the fleece.

The shades are all beautiful, and perfect for so many projects. And, honestly, I would take a taupe yarn over a gray one any day.

Next, let’s talk about the look of the yarn itself and how it works up.

Light Swatches of Cestari Sheep and Wool Tradtitional Collection Undyed

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Each skein had an easy center pull and I didn’t have yarn barf from any of them. Which is more than a little impressive.

The yarn itself is a 2-ply twist, which is more obvious in the tweed shades since those are made with 1 ply each of 2 different shades, but it’s also easy to see in the photo above of the Natural White shade. It’s loosely twisted, but it doesn’t split like some wools and cottons do while you’re working with it.

Dark Swatches of Cestari Sheep and Wool Tradtitional Collection Undyed

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This yarn works up a beautifully thick fabric, but it still has a good deal of movement to it. It was light and lofty, even though it was thick. Working up the swatches, you could tell that the yarn itself was going to be warmer than any acrylic could ever hope to be.

It’s the softest traditional wool I’ve ever worked with, and you just know that it’s going to get softer in time. It also wasn’t scratchy like wool can be.

Francis says that the wool also doesn’t felt as easily as a regular wool, so it can be put in the washer on a cold, gentle cycle. Don’t put it in the dryer though, and don’t dry clean it. It’s wool, so it doesn’t need to be washed as regularly as acrylic or other man-made fibers do.

I did find that I preferred using the I hook with it over the J hook. As much as I love using larger-than-recommended hooks for most yarns, I loved how the swatches felt with the smaller hook this time.

Tweed Swatches of Cestari Sheep and Wool Tradtitional Collection Undyed

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Now, don’t be surprised to see a little hay in the yarn while you’re working with it.

That’s right, I said hay, and there’s a very good reason for that.

When wool is usually processed, an acid is used to help remove all of the hay (usually called “vegetable matter”). It cleans the wool, but it also removes the lanolin. It doesn’t just weaken the fiber itself, but it changes its texture completely and makes it more dense. Lanolin is also what helps to keep wool dry when it’s raining out.

As I said earlier, Francis and his family don’t process their wool like that. They use a scouring process that keeps the lanolin, preserving the texture and loftiness of the wool in their yarn. So, the hay stays. But it’s easy enough to pick out the little bits that you come across if you want to.

Which also makes the undyed skeins of this Traditional Collection incredibly eco-friendly. Not just because it’s a natural fiber, but because they aren’t using dyes or extra processing, which are both bad for the environment.

Best of all—if you’re near Virginia, you can go meet the sheep and get a tour of the farm and Textile Museum from Francis himself!

If you don’t live locally, you can learn more and see the sheep and yarn-making process on their Facebook and Instagram accounts.

Let us know how what project you would use this yarn on in the comment section!

– Tara Orchard, Editor of Crochet! Magazine

Check out the Cestari Website for more information about the farm’s history! 

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Stashbusting Christmas Presents to Crochet

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Alrighty folks were are in the home stretch. Time to start cranking out the Christmas presents. But save time and money this year by raiding your stash and opening up your December issue of Crochet World for loads of gift ideas with scraps or leftover yarn!

For the kids:

Agnes Russell’s Scrappy Puppet Pair

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Kristin Kauten’s Gingerbear

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For the young at heart:

Fat Lady Crochet’s Black Tie Penguin Pillow

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For the family:

Debra Arch’s Winterset Tic-Tac-Toe

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Bendy Carter’s Hot Chocolate Snowman

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For those that need to stay warm:

Laurie Ann Sand’s Simply Scrappy Tunisian Slippers

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Susan Coleman’s Happy Blooms Blanket

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Katherine Eng’s Very Scrappy Lapghan

Didn’t see something you like here? Then check out Annie’s Craft Store for more fun ideas!

—Britt Schmiesing, editor

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The Holiday Crunch: Tips To Help You Crochet Those Last Minute Gifts

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Hello everyone! Tara here—

Are you ready for the holidays?

I always tell myself I’m going to start making Christmas gifts for everyone in May, and, every year without fail, I wait until the end of November to get started on everyone’s gifts.

So, every November and December is spent with me in a panic and trying to make as many gifts as I possibly can in a short amount of time. This means that I’ll spend hours on end on my couch, frantically crocheting as fast as I can.

And even if you aren’t necessarily crocheting quickly, making homemade gifts will still have you crocheting for hours, if not days (or weeks, depending on the projects you’re working on and how big they all are).

Let’s go over some tips to help you whip out those last-minute gifts:

# 1: Take Stretch Breaks

Not only is it really bad for you to sit in one spot for too long without moving, but it’s really bad for your hands, wrists and fingers to crochet for hours on end without a break. And nothing will slow down your gift-making like carpel tunnel. So, remember to give your body a break and try some hand and wrist stretches like the ones in THIS VIDEO.

Chair yoga is a lot of fun too and will help stretch out your shoulders, neck and back.

# 2: Think About How You Sit

I usually curl up on my couch with my legs tucked to one side and my opposite elbow leaning against the end of the couch or a pillow and I crochet like that. It’s what I’ve always found comfortable, so it’s the position I get into when I crochet. If I get uncomfortable, I’ll just flip to the opposite side and get back to my project.

Not only is it terrible for your shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, legs, etc. to sit like that, but it’s terrible for your back too. Much like when you’re on the computer, there are a lot of articles that can tell you the proper position to be in to crochet without hurting yourself. You really should be sitting in a straight-backed chair with both feet on the ground and a pillow on your lap, not only help cushion your arms and wrists, but to bring your project closer to you so you don’t strain your neck too.

# 3: Have Proper Lighting

If you aren’t crocheting with proper lighting, not only will you potentially put your stitches in the wrong spots and have to frog everything you just did, but you could strain your eyes and give yourself a headache. Either way leads to you losing precious crochet time. It’s easy to avoid and something to keep in mind when you sit down to start crocheting. Especially if you’re using dark yarn.

# 4: Use Ergonomic Hooks

Using a plain metal hook is a lot worse for your hand and wrist than an ergonomic hook, and you can tell that almost immediately when you switch to an ergonomic hook like these AMOUR hooks or this FURLS hook. Once you get used to the new feel of the hook, you can crochet for hours longer than you could before, which is essential when you’re crocheting on a deadline.

# 5: Look Up Hacks

Sometimes hacks waste time and are unnecessarily wasteful, but sometimes they can change your life. One thing I always struggled with was keeping count. I always get distracted and will second guess myself, which then leaves me re-counting everything I just did. And it isn’t a huge deal for small projects, but when your project has a beginning chain over 100 or more than 25 rows….

I saw a hack about using stitch markers to help you keep count and it’s something I always do now. When I’m making a long chain, I’ll put a locking stitch marker (LIKE THESE) every 50 stitches. If I have a long project that has a repetitive pattern, I put a stitch marker every 10 rows instead of fiddling with a row counter that I will inevitably forget to adjust at some point. If I’m feeling especially lazy, I’ll change colors too, and use one shade of stitch marker when I hit 50 chains or rows and another shade when I hit 100, then back to that first color for 150 and back to the second color for 200.

# 6: Stay Organized

Work always moves so much smoother when you’re organized. You know exactly where everything is, your yarn isn’t getting tangled so you don’t have to spend precious time trying to unravel knots, and you can concentrate on your work. I love THIS YARN TOTE, and the pockets that are specifically made for hooks, needles, and skeins of yarn are perfect for keeping you organized.

Happy Stitching!

 

Let us know how what gifts you’re working on in the comment section!

– Tara Orchard, Editor of Crochet! Magazine

Need inspiration? Check out Annie’s Craft Store for incredible crochet patterns! 

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Happy Thanksgiving from Crochet World!

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From everyone at Annie’s Publishing to you and yours…

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Happy Thanksgiving!!!

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What You Need For A Warm & Cozy Day of Crocheting

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Hello everyone! Tara here—

It was so cold here in Indiana this weekend, that I refused to leave my apartment (I have a feeling this winter is going to be bringing a lot more of those days). I spent the whole weekend catching up on chores and crocheting instead of having to bundle up and go brave the weather.

I was warm and cozy, and it’s only fair that I share what made my weekend so wonderful so you can settle in for some cozy crochet days this winter too!

# 1: Coffee and Tea

Coffee and Tea

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I can’t live without coffee and tea and usually have a cup nearby.

I’m a bit of a tea snob and love a great loose-leaf blend. That said, I’ll grab boxes from the local Walmart in the armful and grocery store (or a Christmas Tree Shop/And That Store if I’m visiting my parents in NJ).  I’ll drink almost any tea, but two of my current favorites are a Green Tea with Jasmine from Twinings and Bigelow’s Mint Medley, which you can find HERE and HERE.

The key to making a really great cup of tea—don’t boil the water! You can scorch the tea leaves if you do, and boiling the water gets rid of all of the air in it. It leaves you with a stale and bitter cup of tea, which you don’t want. Check the box to see how hot your water should be, and take your tea bag out once you’re done steeping to get an incredible cup!

A safe bet for most teas is to stop heating up the water right as bubbles start forming.

For my coffee, I really love it dark and I love Victor Allen’s Italian Roast. You can find some really great deals on it at the Christmas Tree Shop or at Bed Bath & Beyond. You can also buy it from Victor Allen’s website HERE, or snag a box off of Amazon.  Their Hazelnut flavor is absolutely incredible too if you like your coffee a little lighter and flavored.

# 2: Something to Listen To

I usually prefer to have music on when I crochet, but I will often crochet to tv shows and movies. I tend to prefer shows that I don’t have to pay very close attention to so I can focus on my stitching. Podcasts and Audiobooks are also wonderful to crochet to.

Some of the artists I’m really loving right now are Dermot Kennedy, Tom Walker, Jonathan Roy, and James Arthur. I’ve also been loving Tommee Profitt’s covers too—if you haven’t heard the emotional piano cover of “Wake Me Up”, featuring Fleurie (who is also incredible), then you have to go listen to it immediately.

For TV shows, you really can’t go wrong with cooking shows or crime shows. They aren’t something you always have to pay super close attention to and can get by with just listening to what’s going on, so they’re my go-to. I also love re-watching shows and movies I’ve already seen for that same reason.

# 3: Candles

Snowflakes & Cashmere Candle

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Candles are a must-have for 2 reasons. One: they smell incredible. And two: the soft glow they give off brings a cozy warmth to any room, adding an instant comfort. A candle I’m loving right now is Bath & Body Work’s Snowflakes & Cashmere. The website describes the smell as “Snuggling into the softest blanket on a bright winter morning” with “vanilla cashmere cream, caramel woods, and frosted clementine” fragrance notes.

It definitely lives up to this description.

(And Bath & Body Works always has really great coupons out, so you can grab this at a great price.)

# 4: A Blanket

Cozy Throw Blanket

Aspyn Throw Designed By Darling Jadore

Is it a cozy day if you don’t have a blanket?

No. But don’t just go out and buy one (you could, but why do that when you can make your own). This Aspyn Throw is made using chunky yarn, so it whips up incredibly quick. Plus, it’s wonderful to be able to use your blanket as you’re crocheting it.

# 5: A Blanket Hoodie

Oversized Blanket Hoodie

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I bought one of these for my sister-in-law a few years ago and didn’t even give it to her before I caved and bought my own HERE. This Blanket Hoodie is so thick and warm and one of the coziest things I own and they’re one-sized fits all!

The pocket in the front is huge and has another mini-pocket inside of that. So you can shove a few skeins of yarn and every one of your notions inside without a problem AND without worrying about losing your hook. Or you can put a family-sized bag of chips in it. Whatever you’re feeling that day.

Do I purposely leave my heat low so I have an excuse to wear this? Maybe.

Do you need one? Absolutely.

Get cozy and crochet!

 

Let us know in the comments: what’s your favorite thing to have on a cozy day-in?

– Tara Orchard, Editor of Crochet! Magazine

Need more inspiration? Check out Annie’s Craft Store for more incredible crochet patterns! 

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