Sunday Knits yarn - our story
In an area of northern Illinois that would surprise you with its bluffs and spring-fed streams, tucked away in a secluded hollow, through a pretty gate and behind an old stone house sits Sunday Knits yarn company. Sunday Knits is quite literally a cottage enterprise.
Sunday Knits yarns all begin in Italy, a country which certainly has a lot going for it. Besides the stunning scenery and delicious food, there is a pervasive culture of craft. You can't miss it. In a region that is known for its olive oils, for instance, when you visit the farms and the presses where those oils are produced, you will find that many of them have been in operation for centuries. The family owners have passed down the art and craft of their trade, and they continue to work to improve and perfect their product. This culture of craft and apprenticeship, and this striving for perfection are what make many Italian goods among the finest in the world, whether they are olive oils, prosciuttos and cheeses, marbled papers, blown glass, leather goods, or of course, textiles. Italy is a country of makers, and the pride Italians take in what they make is intense and well-deserved.
In a region of northern Italy that has a long history of making fine woolens, is a yarn mill that exemplifies this passion for excellence. A family-owned mill in operation since the 1600's, these spinners and dyers are true masters of their craft. Their yarns, which are highly prized, are produced primarily for the garment industry, and once finished they ship off to companies that include Dior, Burberry, Ralph Lauren, Armani, Gucci, and Sunday Knits. Yes, this is the good stuff!
Besides their dedication to creating the finest product possible, these yarn makers are also commited to sustainability. Their machinery is ultra-modern, so it is able to scour, card and spin with more energy efficiency than the - albeit more charming - machines from older mills. This low energy requirement combined with conservative water usage makes for a light footprint on the planet.
It is also a priority that the animals who contribute their fleece and fur are treated kindly all along the way. When fibers are sourced, only farms operating under humane guidelines are considered, from Australian merino sheep ranches to Mongolian cashmere goat herds. Angora is selected only from rabbits raised in small European farms that follow strict standards for the humane - sheared, not plucked - harvesting of their fur. From sheep to skein, every step on the journey is fully traceable. So even if you don't know the name of the ewe whose wool went into a skein of Sunday Knits yarns, we could probably find out for you.
Once the fleeces and fur have been harvested, the next step is rigorous fiber selection. Fibers are sorted for fineness as measured in microns (our merino wool fibers measure 18.5 microns, which approaches the fineness of Grade A cashmere). To ensure that the finished yarn is very soft, fibers that are even a little too thick or coarse never make it into the batch. Neither do fibers that are too short, because they would create a yarn that breaks too easily.
Although the machinery used to process these fibers is modern, the methods are traditional. Carding is done in oil, as it has been for generations. With oil carding, microscopic air bubbles are trapped in the wool. This results in yarn that is exceptionally soft, light and lofty. With this traditional processing, there are no chemicals used or added, and the yarns haven't undergone any additional processing, like superwash. Because of this, they will felt nicely if encouraged to do so.
Once the fine woolen-spun yarns have been twisted and dyed to my specifications, Sunday Knits yarns are shipped from the mill on cones, as if for machine knitting. But to get them ready for hand knitting, they still require washing, fulling, skeining, twisting and labeling. These tasks are all done at my small cottage studio, and the work here is both low tech and low key.
One of the first steps is to wind the yarn from cone to skein. This skein-winder was made to create a 54" skein, which is tidier than a standard (60-64") skein. This size is easy to work with, and balls are comfortably wound by hand with the yarn draped over ones knees, around the arms of a chair, or held up in the hands of a friend.
When there's not enough yarn left in a cone length to complete a full 50- gram skein, that yarn may be used in a 20-gram mini skein or a wee sample skein, or for making colorcards, or it goes into my personal stash. This waste-not-want-not approach is why we don't need to make knots in our skeins. While you may come across an inconspicuous milled splice, you will likely never get a knot.
As a life-long knitter and more recent knitwear designer, I started Sunday Knits yarns in 2008 after I couldn't find any hand knitting yarns that suited my wishes for softness, requirements for gauge, and that came in the palette of colors that I had in mind. Now after nearly ten years, over one hundred published designs and maybe a thousand swatches using Sunday Knits yarns, I'm still head over heels in love with this special yarn. It is very lovely stuff.