Sue Burke and the Karakul bucket bag

by Gretchen Frederick November 12, 2015

Sue Burke and the Karakul bucket bag

A little history: Sue Burke found me at the Dupont Farmers Market back when I was just selling handspun yarn from my own flock of Romneys (could it be 15 years ago???). She is probably our greatest supporter: best customer, helping at yarn events and the farmers market and as a knitter, is so astute about our yarns. Sue completely “gets” how different “types” and breeds wool are different from each other and has designed several patterns for us that don’t just utilize those characteristics…they exemplify their strengths.

These bags are a great example. Karakul yarn was one of the first three yarns we had spun when Solitude Wool (the partnership of Sue Bundy and I creating breed-specific yarns) started in 2006. Karakul is the breed Sue raises at RedGate Farm.   They are a heritage breed, rare in the US. The “type” of wool they grow is very different than what most knitters are familiar with.

Sue's Karakul flock
Sue's Karakul flock

Emily Chamelin shearing Sue's Karakul ewe
Emily Chamelin shearing Sue's Karakul ewe

One of the oldest sheep breeds, they have a Primitive type fleece with a long outer coat for weather protection and a softer, down undercoat for warmth. The wool is coarse with no elasticity and traditionally used for Persian rugs. It also felts fantastically…makes great yurts and other felt products.

So we had this really interesting and cool yarn, but people touched it and their eyes popped open with the tactile shock of the rough yarn. No one knew what to do with it.

Sue Burke experimented and designed a knit-to-felt bucket bag using the Karakul for strength and felting ability and pairing it with one of our handpainted woolen spun yarns to create a thick fabric with beautiful texture and color blending. It works so well that the bags don’t need to be lined. The finished bag is solid and will not wear out.

Orange Felted Bag 

Sue has revised the pattern for bucket bag to use with our Targhee 2 yarn. The yarn partner previously was the Tunis. We have the original pattern in the old format and I still haven’t gotten the new pattern into our new format, so I can’t get it up on the website. I am going to get it in the works, but in the meantime, we do have the paper one. There are several sizes in the pattern including a mini zip wristlet. All variations take even amounts of Karakul and a partner yarn.Green Felted Bag

Sue has made maybe a dozen or more of these bags and the pattern has been popular with our customers. It is an exciting project to plan and create partly because of the fun of combining two colors and the magic transformation that happens when you felt them. This is a case of one plus one creating something completely new…and greater than two. The Karakul yarn (and color) will dominate in the final felted fabric. You can create a bag that is very sophisticated, elegant and understated…or one that is still sophisticated, but dramatic and bold. It’s in the color choice.

Felted BagThe pattern gives instructions on hand felting your knitted bag in the sink so you can control it. Sue recommends not selecting a button or handles until after felting when the size and color have revealed themselves.

This is not an inexpensive project if you knit one of the larger bags. Those take two or more skeins of the Karakul plus an equal amount (probably one large skein) of a companion yarn, plus pattern, plus a great button, and great handles (plus optional zipper closure). But you will enjoy making it…and love the fun of felting it and feeling it transform in your hands. And it will be a bag you can use for a long, long, long time.

This weekend at the market we will have five of Sue’s bags plus a couple of her zippered wristlets available for sale. By the time we figured out how much Sue had invested in all the materials, her time and the small cut to the market, the prices seem high. But I stopped to think about it, knowing how we arrived at the price, I knew it was fair. These are all hand crafted by the designer using our yarn, from local (very) wool with excellent (read expensive) handles and are one of a kind creations. What do designer bags go for???? way more than these bags! Actually, I think they are a deal.

Sue is the master of color combinations and she will be with me at the farmers market this fall. If you want to knit one for yourself (or a special gift), she will be there for consultation. Her experience with these bags lets her visualize what will happen with different colors, come take advantage of this opportunity! Will bring the Karakul, Targhee 2 and Tunis this weekend. If you are coming another weekend and want to see these yarns give me an email request a few days ahead of time and I will put them on the truck. If you can’t come to market and want help picking colors, send me an email and we can give some suggestions and help you with your order. Ditto on the bags if you would like a Sue Burke original, send me an email: f-fsolitude@mindspring.com

hope we get to see you at the market!

Gretchen




Gretchen Frederick
Gretchen Frederick

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