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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!