Magic City Henley – And Shetland Sheep!

Magic City Henley

The Magic City Henley pullover by designer Mercedes Tarasovich explores traditional fabrics and styling.  The modern henley-neck pullover is worked in 100% American Shetland Fingering from Elemental Affects, and was inspired by the city of Birmingham, Alabama where she makes her home.

Mercedes Tarasovich says:

In thinking about what motifs represent Birmingham, Alabama, I was drawn to its history as a rail and steel town. It’s also home to amazing green spaces; the city is filled with and surrounded by nature, including a particular type of wetland flower, the Cahaba Lily. I’ve combined stylized motifs of the lily, railroad tracks, and smokestacks to represent the Magic City.

The Magic City Henley is a bottom-up, circular pullover worked with steeks.  (Don’t know what a steek is? Google it!)  The Magic City Henley pattern is available exclusively in Interweave Knits Summer 2015 Issue, we have plenty in stock.  For the experienced knitter.

Shetland Ram with Gorgeous Horns!

The Magic City Henley is knit with Elemental Affect’s Shetland Fingering yarn.  Shetland Fingering is made from USA grown and dyed Shetland wool. You’ll use six different colors in the Magic City Henley, and we have 44 beautifully dyed colors available to choose from.  With wear, the construction of this yarn and the nature of Shetland wool work to basically “felt” without shrinking it. The stitches simply blur, and the tiny kinks along the strand of the wool begin to merge into an almost solid piece of fabric that’s softer than the original yarn.

So what’s so special about Shetlands?  A dog is a dog, but there are different breeds of dogs and each has their own characteristics.  Sheep are the same way.  The Shetland sheep breed originates from the Shetland Isles.  The Shetland Isles have long winters and short, mild summers – it’s no wonder they take wool seriously! The Shetland sheep is a small sheep that retains many of their primitive survival instincts and characteristics.  Their hardiness makes them easy to care for; they survive just fine in the wild under harsh conditions and a poor diet, but thrive as strong, hardy and long-lived when raised on a farm.  Today they are a favorite breed for a “spinner’s flock,” small flocks of sheep raised by handspinners and knitters on hobby farms, where they are often treated more as pets than livestock.

Golden Fleece on a Shetland

The highlight of the Shetland breed is their color.  There are 11 main colors and 30 markings recognized among the breed, from pure snow white to deep coal black, with variations of grays and browns in between.  Many of the markings retain their fun Shetland dialect names such as Bersugget, Bronget, Flecket, Fronet and Gulmoget. There are even blue Shetlands!  Well, they’re not really blue.  The “blue” color comes from dark wool mixed with individual white fibers (called an Iset marking) which gives the sheep a bluish tint from a distance.

Being a primitive breed, the Shetlands are known for their horns.  The rams have gorgeous spiral horns.  Some ewes also have horns.  A ewe’s horns are curved but not spiral and overall a smaller, more delicate version than their brothers.

Colors on a Shetland Ewe

Another primitive survival trait is that Shetlands will shed their wool in the late spring.  Just as your house cat will “blow” her coat in the spring – leaving big puffs of cat hair all over your carpet –  the Shetland’s coat will loosen in the late spring.  Islanders used to pull the wool of the sheep by hand, called “rooing.”  This can be avoided in a modern flock by shearing in the early spring – you do not want all that lovely wool strewn about the pasture and trampled into the mud!

All of the sheep photos are from the website of the North American Shetland Sheepbreeders Association, an excellent source for Shetland information (and full of pretty sheep pictures, too!).

Happy Knitting . . . . Amy

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