About Us

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Ewetopia is the most creative and original aspect of Ewetopia Fiber Shop. In 2008 Kathryn Ashley-Wright began experimenting with knitwear designs and fiber dyeing. In 2009, Ewetopia was officially born and has brought hand dyed yarns and original designs to the Midwest region through local yarn shops and wool festivals. You may have known us as Kate Wright Designs, but Kathryn never wanted her name to be the sole focus of her work, so it made sense to go back to our loved and known brand of Ewetopia.

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The dyeing studio is a small family operation run by Kathryn Ashley-Wright who finds her inspirations from nature, especially her dear flock of sheep grazing in the field and the vivid sunsets that she sees from the studio. At Ewetopia we use professional acid dyes that are metal free and thus healthier for you and the earth. In our labeling and shipping department, we use only 100% recycled post-consumer labels and shipping materials, including biodegradable tape!

Kathryn designs timeless garments and other original designs to fit a wide range of body types, styles and temperaments. All of our professionally printed patterns are printed on 100% recycled post-consumer card stock.

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Ewetopia farm consists of 100 acres of luscious certified organic crops and raise certified grass-fed sheep with a focus on bountiful soft fleeces.

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Linnea – attaching sleeves to a yoked bottom up sweater

As a designer I receive many emails, phone calls and messages about what I consider to be straight forward knitting techniques. I have decided to use my blog to delve into these processes and techniques in detail. Techniques like the Kitchener Stitch, short rows, seaming, and today’s lesson…. Attaching sleeves to a bottom up sweater that has been worked in the round. Many sweaters are worked this way with a body and two sleeves worked separately and then joined to work the yoke.

Step one: work your sweater pattern up to your underarm

Step two: work both sleeves up to your underarm

Step three: typically (as in my pattern Linnea) the “round beginning” marker is at the center back, basically with a bottom up circular sweater you will divide it into 4 quadrants, then subtract two sets of underarm stitches (your pattern will give you all this information) then divide this new number by 4. Say hypothetically you have 100 sts, each quadrant would be 25 sts, say you want 10 sts under each underarm, you now have a total of 80 sts, divide this by 2 and you should have 40 sts for the front and 40 for the back. Your marker is at the center back so you would knit 20, place the next 10 side stitches for your underarm on a holder, and then JOIN your sleeve (make sure you have also put 10 sleeve underarm stitches on a holder too!)

This joining is where people are stumped. If you read ahead in a pattern sometimes it gets confusing, but if you are at the the actual underarm gap it will be much easier.

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As the pictures show, you want to always have the right side facing you, in this case (and in most cases) the right side of the fabric is the smoother stockinette stitch side. When you reach the gap, hold your two sets of underarm stitches together, and simply knit across the right side (smoother side) of your sleeve. When you finish the sleeve stitches join to your body again on the other side of the underarm held stitches. Repeat this for the second sleeve! Once you have knitted a few inches of your yoke this funny business will all of a sudden make perfect sense and become a sweater.

Have fun!

Land moments

 

 

 

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Snowflake is pretty darn cute. It’s moments like this that I like to step back and take in the beautiful land that I feel so blessed to live on. After a long winter of cold, ice, hauling hay, water and wood, we start to consider what it’s like to live in town. But then the snow melts and the mud drys up, and this amazing magic is underneath, magic that draws children outside and delights them for hours, and magic that gives you strength you forgot you had to do all kinds of amazing feats. Because really, summer on a farm? Is way more work than in the winter. But for some reason work in the summer doesn’t feel like work at all. 

 

Adventures in washing wool

One word. Ferment. If you have sheep, have you ever found little strands of wool out in the pasture that are bright white and cleaned naturally by the sun and rain? Yup. It can happen. But that takes all year. So I have another two words for you. Swint bath. This is a tub of rain water, or soft water. I have minimal gutters and very hard water, so I made up two tubs, one with Washing Soda and one with baking soda (in the washing detergent aisle). I poured a whole box in their respective tub and filled it 3/4 up with water.

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Previous to this I had skirted fleeces, this means to lay them out on a wire rack, sheep side down and pick through them, typically I take off 3-4″ from around the entire fleece as this may have lots of second cuts (no matter how good your shearer is). The neck and back area and around the hindquarters usually also goes, they are too contaminated with hay and manure to keep and clean out.

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It is sadly not uncommon to lose at least half of your raw fleece in the skirting process if your sheep are not coated.

I then said a little blessing and submerged it into the tubs, I could fit at least two fleeces in each tub, I used some of my greasier fleeces for this first bath. Why you ask? Because the grease is magically what ends up cleaning the wool. It will be brown and gross, but stay strong and leave it in, keep it in for a whole week. I covered my tubs so bugs and leaves didn’t muck it up.

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After a week, I took it out and spun it out in a top loading washing machine, I made sure to let it drain into a bucket so I could dump the nasty goodness back into my fermenting tub!

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The wool still felt just a little sticky with grease, but was quite clean and much less greasy! But because I was sending this to a mill for carding and spinning I needed it completely grease free, so I heated up my large 100 qt pot to close to a simmer, poured in some of the Kookaburra Scour, and added my spun out fleece. I let it sit for about 10 minutes and then spun it out again in the machine. Now it was gorgeous. I laid it out and let it dry.

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I now can add raw fleeces to my tubs, let them sit for 2-3 days and they work their magic, but just to make sure I am still rinsing them in a hot scour bath. I just brought my washed fleeces to the mill and she confirmed that they were indeed clean enough! I had tried this a couple years ago and it was just a mess, but this year I have made sure to keep going and do the steps right and they have turned out great. If you have any questions feel free to ask away… I love talking fiber!

Working with hand dyed yarns

Hand dyed yarns can bring depth and amazing texture and color to your knitted garment. There are many ways to hand dye yarn, hand painting, dip dyeing and kettle dyeing or submersion dyeing. Personally I am a kettle dyeing girl, I like muted color changes and semi-solid colors, especially for larger garments. With space dyed yarns like hand painted or dip dyed yarns you run the inevitable risk of your colors pooling, sometimes a different stitch count makes it go away, sometimes it makes it worse. Kettle dyed yarns, even over dyed multi-colored color ways are much less likely to pool and are more random in their color changes than the previous dyeing techniques. But to achieve these unique colors each skein carries the risk of being unique to itself, even when multiple skeins are dyed at once in the same pot. Why you ask? Because temperature and space in the pot are crucial, if a skein is closer to the center of the pile of skeins it will not receive as much dye as it’s “family”, the rest of that dye lot. Thus when you knit one full skein and then start a new one even within the same dye lot, they can be slightly to more obviously different.
How do you remedy this dilemma? I’m sure you will scoff at what I say next, just as how everyone rolls their eyes when the word “swatch” is brought up, but by working with two skeins at once of a hand dyed yarn will make all the difference in your finished garment. Hats, mittens and other small one-skein projects are great for hand dyed yarns, but there is seriously nothing as beautiful as a hand dyed semi solid sweater. By switch skeins every 1 or 2 rounds if working in the round or every 2 rows if working flat, and carrying the yarns up as you go, you can keep your garment uniform in color without stark color changing lines.

Here are three pictures, the first are my two skeins, both the same color way and dye lot, but obviously different, the second are the two skeins knit separately (I switched skeins about half way up the swatch), and the third picture are the two skeins knit together, switching skeins every other round.

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Another technique that can work if you have enough skeins that work well together and won’t create a skein changing line through your work for the body of your garment is to work the sleeves in the skeins that are similar but just a little off, such as they picked up more red dye than others, or something like that. If you can keep the skeins separated into different body sections, such as the sleeves and the body, or even the body and the yoke, these are natural lines that your eye doesn’t immediately go to. But switching skeins is the most effective and fluid way to knit with hand dyed yarns.
As a hand dyer I can assure you that I wish all my skeins were exactly the same from dye lot to dye lot, but sometimes I have to step back and see that if they were all uniform and always the same that dyeing yarn wouldn’t be what I enjoy. I enjoy dyeing yarn and working with color because it is always different, and sometimes what ends up coming out of the pot is infinitely more beautiful than what I had expected. 20 qt stock pots can only hold so much yarn, so always start your project with plenty of yarn in the same dye lot because likely a few months later your dye lot won’t be available anymore or even a similar dye lot! But the garment made with hand dyed yarns is completely unique and worth every penny and second spent changing skeins throughout your project!>

Living up to my crafty self

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It has taken me three children to become ambitious and self assured with crafting for a baby. Yes, I have always preached wool diaper covers and cloth prefolds, but have I ever really loved using them and opted for wool over the poly covers? Not until now.

With my first daughter, I had no idea. I knew I wanted cloth diapers, and as a designer I wanted to knit my own wool covers. I made many different kinds and promptly never finished or used them more than a couple times after she was born. These are coming in handy now…

My second daughter, two years later, followed much the same as my first, except I did not do much knitting or sewing for her at all and the wool covers were left undiscovered. Possibly because I felt too busy with two to consider re-lanolizing the covers (soaking them in a lanolin bath to make them water resistant), or possibly because I was still unsure they were the best way to go. But by now I was also very unhappy with the poly covers and how they did not do a very good job keeping her dry past one pee! We ended up making excuses and using disposables whenever possible.

My wool diaper cover adventure has taken off with my 3 week old son who pees like there’s no tomorrow. He can seriously soak through anything…. Except my wool covers that I made for Stella 5 years ago. Felted wool covers, either hand knit or sewn from recycled wool sweaters have been a saving grace for this little man. He was developing a bad rash and my husband decided that he would put a disposable on every chance he had. This seemed insane since we had so many prefolds and little Olan would wet through a diaper in what seemed like a matter of seconds. How many disposable diapers did I have on this little guy and before I had him dressed he had loaded it up again? A crazy number of diapers. So I decided to give the wool covers another look. The poly covers would soak through every layer of clothing he had on with one pee, so these were quickly not my favorites. I soaked my covers in a sink of hot water and a tiny amount of pure sheep lanolin (the Lansinoh nipple cream works too), then let them dry in a room away from our wood stove heat and direct sunlight. They are amazing. He stays dry and the covers will air out and be oder free before the next diaper change.

I have started sewing wool covers out of a pile of recycled wool sweaters I had, and have been tailoring them to fit well with as little bulk as possible. It has taken me 3 babies to really try and problem solve these crafting dilemmas, but I’m glad I did. Olan’s rash even disappears when we only use the wool covers all day. I must admit though… We have been using a disposable at night since he is happy to sleep all night or only half wake up to nurse (which we can both do half asleep!) A happy well rested mama trumps not using a disposable!

Looking for lanolin? I was so excited to find 100% sheep lanolin that I purchased it in bulk and will have it available at Ewetopia! I have also seen it at the Viroqua Food Co-op in the health and beauty department. The Lansinoh nipple cream also works well, but it is a lanolin man-made product.

Never be afraid to make something work that you believe to be too difficult, you may just find out it’s an easier option!

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The Spring Muse

“Here’s health to the master and his stock
Likewise to shepherd and his flock
Wishing that all live and none die
None go blind, but all see
None stray, but all stay
As a help to the jolly old dog”

The Shearers Toast, Traditional Folk Song, Carla Sciaky. 1992 Spin the Weavers Song

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This song is always with me during the spring months. Since I have been raising sheep, almost 7 yeas now, I have found much strength from Carla Sciaky’s little known, but very magical album Spin the Weavers Song.

Walking out side on a day like today with the sun shining and a warm breeze that carries the lilting voices of forty song odd lambs, I have a feeling that anyone would yearn to be a farmer, even for a day. Spring does that too you. At least for me it brings strength to start big projects, finish old ones and dream for hours on the projects for another spring. Fiber mill co-op anyone?! This year, although snow still lingers and ice prevails, it is no different. This year my projects include plans to build a chicken coop (my 4 year old is dying to have egg collecting duties and it has been too long that I have not had hens on this farm!), a sap boiling area (really my mom’s big plan, but I am happy to add my grunt work and maple trees!), and of course my familiar yearnings for a fiber mill. Although in the short term I am looking into a better dyeing studio set-up, what to build and what will work for years, instead of months…

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There is nothing better after a slovenly winter of knitting and cooking to work outside and go to bed with that completely and utterly exhausted feeling. I believe that even if you have not done much physical work on a spring day, the emotional and inspirational involvement is just as draining.

Today the girls and I walked out to where last fall I drove stakes in the ground to mark out a possible home site. We are desperate to build a house, especially now that we have spent another very cold winter in our old farm house. Walking out to this beautiful location… just beyond our existing house… was incredible. The warmth of the sun and the expanse of the openness was even more wonderful than during the darkening days of Autumn when my house building was at its frenzy. But now all I can do is wait to hear back from the bank… fingers crossed.

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My dyeing studio needs an update, last summer and fall and dyed outside and that was wonderful unless it was a windy day and my propane burner was a wild flame. My porch works right now while dyeing a slower, but it is a lot of hauling water from our tub and hauling yarn back to the kitchen to be spun dry in the washing machine. My new favorite plan is to build a green house and have part of it be a dye studio and part be lambing pens in the spring months. I love this idea of being able to watch the lambs all day long in the sun!

Happy spring everyone. Knitting projects still abound here, although now i feel like knitting with cottons and linens. You?