Green Mountain Spinnery New Mexico Organic
The 90-minute drive takes you west of Taos, across the Rio Grande gorge and along a seemingly endless flat region bordered by mountains. After a while, my car climbed up into one such mountain and headed right into the Carson National Forest.
It was a perfectly clear October day, and the leaves were beginning to change. I had my windows open to enjoy the crisp air when suddenly I thought I heard the "baaaa" of sheep. I slowed, figuring that my active imagination was playing tricks on me. More "baaaa" sounds followed, and then a high-pitched whistle and the sound of a man yelling "yahhhhh!"
I looked to the left and was greeted by a dreamlike vision: a steady stream of white sheep being led down to the valley by two astute sheepdogs and, from behind, two men on horseback. I pulled the car over, opened my windows wide, and took in the sheer perfection of what I was witnessing. I'd come to New Mexico for a sheep and wool festival, but here I was being treated to the real thing. I watched as the leisurely procession made its way past, until the very last little sheep had been rallied by one of the dogs.
When I reached Tierra Wools, I told them what I'd just seen. They eyed one another and said, "That must've been Molly's flock!" They meant Molly and Antonio Manzanares, whose certified organic sheep provide the fiber for the organic yarn at Tierra Wools—mostly used for weaving purposes. It being mid-October, they suggested that the flock was being led down the mountain from its summer pastures. I've seen plenty of sheep at festivals and at farms, but this was different, and I've never forgotten it.
Fast-forward to last week when I opened a package from Green Mountain Spinnery. In it, a gorgeous skein of succulent white yarn called New Mexico Organic. I scanned the press release and my eyes stopped at the words "Molly and Antonio Manzanares." I was holding in my hands a skein of wool from that same flock.
People who don't love yarn may not understand the feelings that swept over me, but I trust you will. I imagine a movie buff would've felt the same way holding, say, the sunglasses Audrey Hepburn wore in Breakfast at Tiffany's. I grabbed my camera and quickly took a picture of the skein so I could begin this review.
New Mexico Organic is a perfect example of what Green Mountain Spinnery can do. The Vermont-based spinnery excels at doing just enough to produce a clean, ready-to-knit skein of yarn while maintaining the vibrancy and spirit of the original fibers. They don't bleach them to oblivion or douse them in chemicals to mothproof and eliminate all traces of the field—they work the fibers gently, using only non-petroleum soaps and oils. Despite the minimal processing, I couldn't smell any sheepy scent of lanolin in the yarn.
They chose to present Molly and Antonio's fibers in a two-ply, DK-weight yarn. It has been spun woolen-style, which means that the fibers were only minimally aligned before being spun. This results in an incredibly lofty, springy yarn.
My swatching was a tactile pleasure. The yarn readily grabbed the needles and didn't snag once. By the second row, I was knitting by touch alone.
Blocking / Washing
Perhaps too discreet to be visible in this photograph (with an unwashed swatch at left and washed one at right), you'll have to trust me on this. The washed fabric had expanded and relaxed into a beautiful cohesive piece of wool fabric.
My gauge (5 stitches per inch) was one stitch short of the 6 stitches-per-inch gauge listed on the label, and the fabric felt decidedly vulnerable at this looser gauge. I definitely recommend using whatever needle size is necessary to reach 6 stitches per inch with this yarn. The fabric will thank you for it.
In terms of wear and tear, New Mexico Organic did remarkably well considering it's a lofty woolen-spun yarn. After a fairly sustained period of friction, my swatches began to show general signs of surface softening.
It took quite a bit more friction before any visible pills emerged on the surface—and those were only visible upon close examination. The fibers' elasticity helped the swatches bounce back again and again without ever losing shape.
Depending on the recipient, you can simply include a card explaining the washability issue and stick to smaller items that can be easily washed by hand. Despite the alluring appeal of a baby blanket in this yarn, I don't think the handwash-only logistics will work for most people.
In terms of stitches, the yarn's two-ply composition gives even simple stockinette a discreet amount of texture and depth. More elaborate stitchwork comes through with the same quiet clarity of a low-relief sculpture.
Those two visual components make it an ideal yarn for the cables and ribbing in Ann Budd's Tyrolean Stockings from the Fall 2007 issue of Interweave Knits (I'd probably reinforce the heels just in case). For a bigger project, I'd love to see this used in a classically styled raglan cardigan. You'd need some 1,700 yards for a medium-sized women's one, which translates into 10 skeins, bringing the bill just over the $100 mark.
Okay, maybe I'll just stick to the socks.
New Mexico Organic
Green Mountain Spinnery
100% certified organic wool
6 sts per inch on US 6 (4mm) needles
Average retail price
Where to buy online
Green Mountain Spinnery
Weight/yardage per skein
2oz / approx 180 yards
Country of origin
USA: Sheep raised in New Mexico, fiber processed and spun in Vermont
Manufacturer's suggested wash method
To maintain the chemical-free nature of this yarn, hand-wash gently in lukewarm water using a plant-based non-petroleum soap. Rinse thoroughly. Roll in a towel to remove excess moisture or spin in washer (for 10 seconds only). To dry, lay flat to correct measurements in a well-ventilated area.
Color used in review
natural (no name)
Green Mountain Spinnery