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This autumn there’s a new yarn in the MDK Shop, Winterburn Aran by Baa Ram Ewe, and it’s a surprising and marvelous find.

Winterburn caught my eye when Ann wrote about it and showed off a Hadley Pullover knit from it.

The yarn is made from Bluefaced Leicester (BFL) and Masham, both longwool breeds. Longwools are lustrous, have more wave than crimp, and are durable. Both BFL and Masham have more bounce than a typical longwool (such as Wensleydale), a little more crimp and loft, but still have drape and shine. These breeds take what’s good about longwool and add a little oomph.

Winterburn is worsted spun, to keep it smooth and help to bring the shine. The ply is simple: 2-ply with a light twist.

One Sweater, Two Yarns

The original Hadley Pullover was knit from Brooklyn Tweed Shelter, which is a yarn made from springy Targhee and Columbia. It’s woolen spun, to be light and lofty, with more texture and less shine on the surface of the yarn. It’s a tweed yarn with speckles of other colors spun in. It’s a 2-ply yarn with a just a little more ply twist than the Winterburn.

Kay’s original Hadley in Brooklyn Tweed Shelter.

Substituting Winterburn for Shelter gets you a very different looking and feeling sweater.

Ready? Before we dive in, I want to remind you that one yarn is not superior or inferior, they are simply not the same. They present differently in knitting, like relatives once removed. The choice of which yarn to use is always yours. Coffee, tea or cocoa? Choose what makes you happy.

The first thing I notice about Winterburn is the shine. That luster tells me about the content of the yarn and that it is spun worsted, making the surface of the knitting look and feel smooth. A worsted spun yarn is not a warm as a woolen spun yarn, because there’s no loft to trap air against your skin. But come on—it’s still wool, so it’s plenty warm.

Both the breeds used and the style of spin make Winterburn very durable. It won’t pill as much, and you’ll get a garment that will look beautiful for a long time even if it’s the sweater that gets constantly thrown in your back seat and stuffed into your bag just in case you get cold. (I’m in midst of those hot flashing years and I still take a sweater or shawl everywhere, just in case.)

I’m eyeing Winterburn for a basic travel cardigan; this yarn will stand up to the abuses of travel, and will give me a cardigan that is soft enough to mush up and use as a pillow.

Winterburn’s stitch definition is distinctive. The fiber, the 2-ply, and the light-ish twist all make for a lively surface in knitted fabric. I can see it in a plain swatch: there’s visual texture even in stockinette. I can see the stitches clearly, but they don’t line up in perfectly neat rows. I like that.

Putting two (or more colors) of Winterburn together is so delightful. The fiber’s shine and the smoothness of the yarn make the stitches stand out more than a regular 2-ply, but the ply and the underlying color of the fiber draw the colors together beautifully. The stitches are soft with a bit of an edge, and the movement from one color to another is flowing.

I mentioned color, and there is something unusual about Winterburn’s colors. On the label it says 25% brown Masham. The rest of the fiber is white—this is before it’s dyed. Using a bit of a dark natural color in the base of a yarn brings a real depth to any of the beautiful colors that it’s dyed.

Blending fibers together doesn’t make a yarn 100% thoroughly mixed, and that’s a good thing. I can see there is something extra there and it’s not the shadow of the ply.

When I look at a strand against a white background, I see darker spots. They are less pronounced than in a semi solid yarn, almost small slubs of color, a little whisper. It makes the overall color of the yarn and knitting richer.

This yarn drapes, but because Masham and BFL have more crimp than some of their longwool cousins, it has some bounce-back. It won’t grow or pull into a new or interesting shape over time. The drape gives it a pleasing heft and just a bit of a sway. It gives a garment more charisma.

Your Fairy Gristmother Weighs In (Literally)

As gorgeous as this yarn is, we have to make sure it works for our sweater.  Let’s check the grist, comparing it to the original Hadley yarn, Shelter. I will point out that Shelter is wonderfully and unusually light, so most comparably-gauged yarns will be heavier.

Shelter gets you 80 yards to an ounce. Winterburn is 52 yards to an ounce.

A 1,500 yard sweater out of Shelter would weigh 18.5 ounces and one knit from Winterburn would weigh 29 ounces.

The overall feeling of a sweater from this yarn is sumptuous; not in the cashmere sort of way, but in the way that a gorgeous embroidered tapestry or the robes of royalty are luxurious. It knits into a fabric that is unique, with sheen and dramatic depth of color, and makes for a garment with presence that will last.

About The Author

Jillian Moreno spins, knits and weaves just so she can touch all of the fibers. She wrote the book Yarnitecture: A Knitter’s Guide to Spinning: Building Exactly the Yarn You Want so she could use all of the fiber words. Keep up with her exploits at


  • Ive been spinning Masham for several years and I love it. I also like BFL, but have gotten to love the unknown breeds. One of my other favorites to spin and dye was Portugese Merino. It had more body than our Merino, but is now hard to find.

  • any pattern recommendations???

  • You have written a poem to a yarn—-thank you, Jillian!

  • Another wonderful article by Jillian! I have been eyeing Winterburn Aran for quite some time. The way Jillian describes it makes me shiver with delight!

  • What needles are used and yard?

    • The label calls for a US 7 or 8, but of course that will depend on the gauge you’re aiming for.

  • Are you saying it will be a stiffer, less drapey fabric?

    • I don’t think she’s saying that: “The drape gives it a pleasing heft and just a bit of a sway. It gives a garment more charisma.” Having seen the photography sample of Hadley in this yarn, I can say that it’s soft and drapey.

  • Ahhh, you had me at “won’t pill as much”!

  • Hi Jillian. My name is Suzanne, and I have been involved with needle arts and crafts since I was 5 yo. For the past few years I have become more interested in the creation of yarn and making pieces with the yarn. Your article on Google is so informative and exciting to read. Thank you for the inspiration.

  • Hi Folks, I really enjoy info like this! Can anyone comment on row count of these two yarns?

  • I only knit sweaters, so it’s important to me to know the cost or approximate cost of a skein. Do you have that information?

  • My Hadley using Shelter was my first color work sweater. I was, and am, so happy with the result. I was thrilled to get gauge but when I blocked my sweater the yarn grew. Valuable lesson here…. block your gauge square!! My sweater is now a bit bigger! I’ve seen online that Shelter yarn is known to grow a bit. What causes some yarns to grow this way? Will Winterburn also grow when blocked?

    • Hi Val,
      Yes, most animal fiber yarns will grow a bit when wet-blocked. Each one is a little different. Superwash yarns grow a ton when wet blocked, non-superwash yarns less so. The only way to know how much it grows is to treat your gauge swatch the same way you plan to treat your sweater, and then measure your gauge.

      • Thank you. Happy thanksgiving!

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