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A skein of Ellen's yarn
Ellen's yarn once knitted up

Yarn Profile: Ellen's 1/2-Pint Farm Hand-Dyed Mohair

First Impressions
The first time I set eyes on Ellen Minard's yarns was at the 2000 Vermont Sheep and Wool Festival. Her booth occupied every inch of a large corner with windows overlooking the ski slopes. The sun was streaming in, illuminating her colorful hand-painted yarns like a giant prism.

You may know Ellen from her profile in Candace Eisner Strick's Sweaters from New England Sheep Farms. From her rural Vermont farm, she hand-paints all her yarns in exquisite color combinations. She makes them available in small "sampler" skeins and massive project-sized bundles that could easily double as a cat.

Knitting Up
Brushed mohair has a tendency to snag because of all the protruding fibers. With this and any multi-colored brushed mohair, you'll want to be extra careful because the snags will show more clearly.

If you knit with slightly exaggerated movements, you'll produce cleaner stitches and significantly lower your chances of any snagging.

Having sidestepped those snags, I had no difficulties with this yarn. It knit up quickly and easily, producing a fuzzy, lightweight fabric.

Blocking / Washing
I always worry that hand-dyed yarns won't be as colorfast as their commercial counterparts. I was especially concerned about Ellen's yarns because they have such strong colors.

I first washed the swatches in lukewarm water, with no bleeding whatsoever. I then subjected them to hotter water and more vigorous agitation. The color stayed true, and the swatches emerged fine.

When I blotted the swatches in towels, they left no color there either. They blocked back to shape and the gauge stayed true. Success!

Although brushed mohair looks light and fluffy, that can be misleading. At its core is a strong nylon filament that not only holds the strand together but gives great strength and durability to the resulting garment.

Only after undue thrashing did the swatches begin to flatten and look tired.

This yarn wears relatively well against the skin, with only a small amount of brushed-mohair brassiness.

The fuzz conceals individual stitches, letting your eye focus instead on the changing colors. In direct sunlight, the colors are punctuated by the natural sheen of mohair fibers.

Several of the big commercial brushed mohair manufacturers have added a few multicolored yarns to their lines. Call me old-fashioned, but I find something missing when the colors haven't been applied by the human hand.

With Ellen's yarns, you know that each color was selected and applied with a careful eye for the finished result. Even her single-color skeins (available at festivals but not on her Web site) have slight color variations to add subtlety and depth to the finished garment.

If you want to tone down the colors, you can simply pair her mohair with one strand of a foundation color, either knitting two strands together or alternating every few rows. But if you want something cheerful and highly original, pick one colorway and start knitting.

Spinners beware: Ellen also sells hand-painted fibers!

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