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I don’t remember exactly when I first saw Jill Draper’s Rifton yarn, but I remember a sensation of falling. As a longtime devotee of Noro Silk Garden, I recognized that Rifton is made in a similar way: the long color changes are created by spinning in different colors of wool (not by applying dye to sections of a finished yarn).

This process means that the color changes are gradual, hazy. When you’re knitting with Rifton, you don’t know that one color is over until you are well into the next color, and in getting there you’ve passed through a transitional phase where the yarn is neither the Before color nor the After color. This subtle, perpetual shift of color is exquisite while you’re knitting it, and in the finished product.

Rifton is a yarn that is a metaphor for life: you don’t see the changes as they’re happening.

Although I recognized the marvel of Rifton’s construction, it blew my mind to learn that Rifton’s colors are achieved by using two colors of natural, undyed wool–straight off the sheep’s back, more or less–and two dyed colors. The natural shades anchor the dyed shades, somehow. The yarn is colorful, yet neutral. Alchemy!

I finally got my hands on some last year, in the Winter colorway of blues and grays. I held onto that 600-yard cake of love for ages, gazing at it in its muslin kerchief, wondering what to make with it. What project could be worthy of my precious 600 yards?

Metronome. Metronome was worthy. And my love for Rifton grew.

A (Coffee) Date with Destiny

Earlier this year, Jill was in town. We had coffee, and I popped a big question: would she make an exclusive colorway of Rifton for our not-yet-exisiting shop?  [cue suspenseful music]….YES! Jill would make a brand-new colorway, just for us.

What colors did we like, she wanted to know.

Um, the colors that you make, Jill? This was an impossible question. We threw it back in her lap, mumbling something about “maybe blue? green? blue/green?”


Zen and the Art of Yarn

Over the spring and summer, we’d get little Jill-grams, accompanied  by baggies of dyed fiber, and mock-ups taped to cardboard.

In the spring, Jill was driving up and down the East Coast picking up bags of wool from “the clip.” She couldn’t tell us how many skeins of Rifton we could have until she had collected all the wool and had a close look at it. Natural shades are a bit harder to get, in quantity, than white wool. We had to be zen about it. With Jill as our example, we were zen. The sheep would provide!

We also had to be zen about when our yarn would be spun. We knew where it would be spun: at the venerable Green Mountain Spinnery, a worker-owned cooperative in Putney, Vermont. But the timing was dependent on the other yarns in their queue. There are best practices about when different colors and fibers can be spun. You don’t want to be putting a bunch of dark wool into the works before you’re done spinning the light colors. Jill would let us know.

Birth of a Yarn

In August, we got a text from Jill: our Rifton was going to be spun that week.

Doesn’t everybody ask their yarn midwife to take pictures at the birth? We certainly did.


Here are clumps of wool on a machine at the Green Mountain Spinnery in Putnam, Vermont. Kind of a mess. I’m not sure about this. If I’d been there, I might have cried a little.


The mixing of the clumps. I sure hope they know what they’re doing. (Also: what do they do when one of these machines breaks down? WD-40? Time travel? )


Something more organized is happening now.


Cotton candy, reminiscent of the Cumberland skies.








Our Rifton is no longer four colors of fluff: it’s Rifton, 100% American grown wool, in an exclusive long-striping colorway called Appalachian Trail, and two coordinating solid-color shades of Rifton Mono: Skies Over the Cumberland and Central Park Bench.

It’s so new that I haven’t even cast anything on yet. What are you making, Ann?



(Photos by Jill Draper.)






  • Oh my! Absolutely beautiful! And with names like Appalachian Trail, Skies Over the Cumberland, and Central Park Bench, who can refuse?

  • Oh Rifton – I hoarded my skein, too, and finally made Kirsten Kapur’s Grand Central Scarf from Drop Dead Easy Knits. Pefect use. Want more.

  • Congrats to Jill and MDK! That looks just lovely and I’m really looking forward to smooshing it someday.
    Whew, the Not Going To Rhinebeck tension is going to be exceptionally high this year.

  • Just took a chunk out of my Rhinebeck yarn budget, because these look perfect for Kieran Foley’s Jacaranda pattern. I’ve been wanting to knit it in a heavier weight yarn, as an afghan. So perfect, the colors!

    • We’re going to need pictures, Susan!

  • Beautiful

  • Just ordered it – perhaps the only time I’m going to score any Jill Draper yarn.

    You guys are killing me with this fabulous stuff! My stash is already overflowing. I think I need a good Kon Mari marathon in there to make room for all the goodies you’re getting.

  • I just two rounds of Rifton and corresponding Mono skeins from Jill’s Etsy shop. I wish I had waited! I’m hoping for some inspiration about what to do with the additional Mono skeins….

  • This was so much fun to read! I can’t wait to get my yarn and try something with it–probably a cowl. Love how large the mixed color skein is. BTW, you’ve convinced me to try making variegated color yarn by spinning with individual colors! thanks!

  • Absolutely beautiful! I can’t wait to see it in person.

  • So beautiful!

  • Love!!!

  • I’m trying to order this, but there is no shipping and also won’t let me ship to alternate address (only USA provided). I live in Canada

    • Hi Eleonora! Thanks for writing. We’re in the process of setting up our international shipping. We’re so sorry that we can’t yet ship to Canada.

  • Wow! How beautiful! And I love the name – I hike part of the Appalachian Trail often! ( and my hubby did the appraisals needed for the acquisition of land to protect the trail)
    You’re making it very hard for me to keep my promise to knit from stash – but, hey, I haven’t bought any yarn in this new 5777 year! I’m going to take a deep breath, and think on it. The yarns are perfect for the top down stripe-y sweaters I love so much. Or the blanket from your little book……I should probably just order it now, so it doesn’t distract me from the ‘work’ of Yom Kippur.
    Have an easy fast and a terrific year!

  • Love Modern Daily Knitting’s Appalachian Trail. Too beautiful for words. Thank you for the pictures.

  • It’s beautiful! When will it be available?

    • It’s available now!

  • It is very inviting ! As a spinner and knitter, I am interested in what breed of wool ??

    • I believe it has a lot of Cormo in it but is not labeled as such.

  • I’m thinking this scarf could work if I use the skein from both ends? Any comments? One skein would be enough? The yarn is so pretty.

  • Thank you for the pictures of so many of the making steps, How very marvelous.

    I cannot wait to see what all of these babies become.

  • Can someone please catch me? I’m swooning…
    Loved seeing the birth of the yarn, as that makes it all the more special!

  • I was so excited to see that you are using GM Spinnery! We VT knitters think of that as “our” spinnery, although we are delighted to see that its fame is now widespread, and deservedly so. A knitter friend and I visited it several years ago on a tour day and were fascinated by the transformation of really dirty fleece into beautiful Mountain Mohair skeins. Of course we bought out the store. If you’re up our way, try to stop by on a tour day and see for yourself. It adds a whole new dimension to your knitting experience.

  • What a beautiful story, and a gorgeous colorway. I think the colors and their names are just perfect. #jilldraperfanclub

  • Gorgeous! What does it feel like? Soft?

  • Dear Ann and Kay – I’ve tried three times to buy this yarn. Your website asks if I agree to the terms and conditions. I say yes. It goes to the Terms page. I scroll to the bottom. There is nothing there to click on. There is no back button. I click on cart. It has me fill in all ID info again and then asks me if I agree to Terms. Over and over. Maybe I’m missing something but in case I’m not ….

  • Those photos are nutty! Not at all what I imagined. Can’t believe Six Feet Under never started an episode at a spinnery.

  • We (and by we, I mean Mary Lou Egan) discovered that you can knit a STUNNING version of the Grand Central Scarf from Drop Dead Easy Knits by using one cake of Rifton- use the inner end and the outer end as the two colors and walla. So beautiful. It is super tempting to notch that up by using 2 cakes of Rifton (or Rifton plus some monos) and turn it into a Drop Dead Easy wrap , just continuing the width…oooh I think I know what my next project may be…..

  • I’m longing to try this…just because I’m from Nashville and love the colors. Any suggestions for someone barely above beginner status when it comes to knitting?

    • A scarf!

  • I visited the MDK book table today at Rhinebeck. One of the ladies was knitting a cowl with this yarn, it had large eyelets and the pattern looked wavy. I can’t remember the pattern name. The yarn was perfect for this pattern.

    • It’s Hei by Olga Buraya-Kefelian. Coming soon to a blog post near you.

  • Loved this blog entry! I laughed when I read that you mused over what would happen if the machines break…I recently visited Yampa Valley Fiberworks…one of 5 small mills in the country like the one in Putney…really, I asked…only 5? Then, I asked them very same question: what happens if one of the machines break?

    • What did they say?

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