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I love a ma + pa company.  I really do.  Brown Sheep Co is just one of those companies located in Mitchell, Nebraska and their dedication to sustainable practices is (suprise!) one of the reasons I jumped on board to review their newest yarn line, Stratosphere.  The company has been creating natural and sustainable yarn at their own mill for 35 years, recycling 70%-90% of their daily waste water as just one of the many efforts to leave a small footprint.  In addition to yarn, the company also offers roving for spinning which reminds me that I haven't had my wheel turning in umm probably a year or more.

Some other great things Brown Sheep Co has going on - they opened up the Brown Sheep Fiber Arts Schoolhouse - a renovated space for hosting classes and fiber events (the link for more information about that is HERE) and they're offering a free pattern for new subscribers to their newsletter so head on over real quick and sign up for that (link HERE).

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First Impressions

It might be easy to see from the above photo that I wasted no time getting this yarn on my needles.  I would normally take a few pictures of the yarn in hanks, then a few glamour shots of the texture and color variation before winding it up, etc... but I never even wound this yarn.  I pulled it out of the bag, slipped the label off of the first color, draped the hank over my knees, and cast-on.  There are a few reasons for this that I really shouldn't get into here (like, I've been in a mood lately) but if ever there was a time for a perfectly squishy, bouncy, happy round yarn to enter my life, it was that moment.  I'm just going to call Stratosphere "comfort yarn" because it soothed my troubled little soul for a full week.  Now, I should mention that Stratosphere is superwash wool and there are a lot of mixed opinions about superwash out there in the knitting-verse for various reasons. Personally, I prefer to know the methods in which my wool is made so scrubbingly washable because there are eco-friendly methods out there and I don't have that information in regard to Stratosphere.  The main reason I normally don't reach for superwash in general beyond any ethics is that I love a clean block and in my experience, washable woolens just don't cut it.  I'll talk about that later on though - I'm getting ahead of myself.

Additionally, the colors are kettle dyed which I love.  I've had a soft spot for kettle dye colors since long ago when they were much less readily available and I really had to hunt for yarns that offered depth in solids.  There's a sweet softness in the variation and it keeps the knitting interesting in the same way working with variegated yarn does, but without the potential for a densely busy fabric that takes away from the stitch definition of textures and cables. The colors I selected to review were Blizzard (natural ecru), Rover (conch pink/peach), and Lunar (warm violet grey).Stratosphere does come in true solids also if that's your cup of tea. If you're a nerd for yarn stats like I am, here are the details on Stratosphere:

  • 100% Superwash US Wool (3-ply); DK weight

  • Yardage: 260 yards per 3.5 ounce (100g) twisted hank

  • Gauge: 22 sts = 4" on US 6 needles

  • Care Instructions: Machine wash gentle, lay flat to dry

Process

I've already covered the fact that I just willy-nilly threw this yarn onto some needles and went to town.  And, I already covered the fact that it is so supremely squishy and bouncy that knitting with it was joyful.  The yarn is nice and evenly round which made me want to play with highly textured cables, some textured knit and purl stitches, and see how evenly it worked up in Stockinette st.  I wasn't sure where I was going with it until a third of a shawl was already in my lap.  It is surely a creative person's world that is sucked into a material like it's a black hole because it provides a pleasing tactical experience!  I never had to worry about splitting the yarn or anything weird - it was just nice and easy.  If you check out the yarn stats above, you might notice that each hank boasts a whopping 260 yards.  That's not shabby for a DK yarn... which bring me to how this shawl came to be.  I worked through most of the first color and was faced with starting back and working a small project that used all three colors together as I had originally intended for the review or carrying on to see where this would lead.  Considering the generous yardage - 780 yards total - I thought I could squeeze a decent sized shawl out of the three hanks and went for it.  One thing to maybe note is that I used Size US 7 needles rather than the recommended US 6 because I tend to go up a needle size at least when I work shawls.  It's a fabric drape thing.

Results

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As I had anticipated, the stitch definition is superb, the kettle dye adds a richness to otherwise solid colors, and the shawl boasts 72" x 24" including fringe which is a perfectly cozy, wearable size.  As the shawl touched water, it sopped it up (I'm a wet blocker through and through) which has some substantial benefits and drawbacks.  When the yarn takes in water so easily, it is a great sign that it will block rather nicely and the stitches will even out and crisp.  The drawback is that the fiber becomes so relaxed that it begins stretching like crazy.  When I first pulled it from the bath, squeezed out the excess water, and draped in onto the counter, it had nearly doubled in size!  Even Mae was shocked when she came in and the entire length of counter was covered in the magic growing shawl.  I would normally shape and pin a shawl, then let it air dry but I didn't want the stitches to be so extended so I just popped it in the dryer on delicate, low heat for about 15 minutes and laid it flat to dry the rest of the way.  I certainly lost some of the crisp blocked look that I would normally get, but if I was feeling extra picky, I would pin it when it was dry and hit it with steam to even it out to perfection.  Now, I think it's important to note that the final product is blocked extremely well for a superwash and the finished feel of the yarn is very similar to the bouncy feel it had when I was knitting with it.  Had I pinned it and let it dry over-blocked, I don't think it would have retained that texture.  The finished piece is so stretchy it makes me think this would be the perfect yarn for a pullover that needed some elastacity.

As I'm sure you can guess, I really enjoyed working with this yarn.  I'm eager to get my hands on some of Brown Sheep Co's other offerings now also. Please take a moment to head over to their website (link HERE) and check out their selection of yarns and patterns.

A very special thanks to Brown Sheep Co for providing three hanks of yarn for this review!

Side note and not directly related: I've already had folks asking about this shawl pattern and as of right now, I do have written instructions, but it will take some time to finish up a pattern and have it ready for purchase.  I'll post about that over at the Pink Brutus Knits Blog and on Instagram as I get closer to release.


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Disclaimer: I received no monetary compensation for this review; I did however receive the product in exchange for posting my honest opinion and review.  I am an affiliate with Brightech and this post contains affiliate links.  Your experience with the reviewed products may differ from my own.