When you’re browsing at a fiber festival or a farm’s yarn shop, you may come across a skein of yarn that has the name and maybe even the photo of an animal on the back. A named skein like this uniquely connects us to the animal or flock that provided that fiber. Even rarer is a chance to meet that animal. Though spinners may often feel this connection to their fiber, having this as a knitter feels extraordinary.
What exactly is a named skein? It’s a skein that lists the name of the animal or animals who contributed fiber to the finished yarn. Tracing a single fleece from shearing to finished skein is really only possible with a small-batch yarn created in an artisan mill, but that’s what makes it so memorable!
The story of my named skein began one summer weekend many years ago. That’s when a friend and I loaded up the car and drove outside of Bellvue, Colorado, where we had an appointment to visit a local alpaca ranch. On 40 acres in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, this little herd from Daybreak Criations Alpacas brought squeals of delight as we met alpaca after alpaca.
I was a newer knitter then, and as we walked around the shop checking out the finished skeins, I remember thinking I’d never felt anything so soft. I came to a beautiful beige skein and read the back. It said, “Yarn Name: E’Clipse & Friends.” I asked if these were skeins created from their herd’s fleeces. Not only was the answer yes, but E’Clipse was one of the alpacas I met that day.
I turned to my friend and exclaimed that I must get this skein from my new alpaca friend so I’d never forget this day. Years later, those memories made a joyful return as I pulled out that skein once again.
We most often experience seeing fiber listed in general terms: 100% alpaca or a 50/50 silk/cashmere blend, for example. Though it may be possible to track it down, it takes work to connect back to the region, herd, or animals the fibers came from. But it just delights me to no end to know where the fiber in this special skein came from.
This whole named skein idea got me thinking about how we can find those unique connections to all our yarn. For a skein of wool, we can try to imagine the herd of sheep it might have come from. Or take a moment with a new skein to untwist the plies and see the individual fibers making up the finished yarn, connecting you to that animal from which it originated.
As we often do with the special skeins in our stash, I’ve been waiting for the perfect project to appear. I am considering a cowl, but I also have my eye on this beautiful hat—something that allows me to snuggle close, feel the soft fiber, and relive those happy memories.
I hope you find a special connection to your fiber, too!
A special thanks to Denise at Daybreak Criations Alpacas for sharing the alpaca image used in this article. Today, they’ve sold the balance of their herd and are working to have the last 3,000 lbs. of their alpaca fiber processed.
Tiffany Warble oversees content and digital strategy for Long Thread Media and is a life-long creative with a continuing love for all fiber arts.