Thursday, 16 April 2009

Bendigo Woollen Mills

Once upon a time, long long ago, there was an elderly woman in my mum's church who was a beautiful knitter and one day she revealed to us the source of her favourite, most often used yarn.

Bendigo Woollen Mills Shade Card 2009

Bendigo Woollen Mills. Back then they didn't have a website and our elderly friend told us how she ordered always by phone or fax. Somehow my mum got hold of a shade card and really, we've never looked back.

Back then, Bendigo provided their goods in 200g (or 7oz) hanks and I'll never forget the first time I sat down to wind a 200g hank of sand coloured cotton. Pretty soon it looked like 200g of spaghetti and it had to be turfed. I was so green. So very green.

My earliest projects, once I left behind the shameful muppet fur of yesterday's post, were knit or crocheted from Bendigo wool, usually Rustic in 8ply. My mum is a natural fibre lover from way back and growing up, all I knew was 8ply pure wool, which is why I am at something of a loss to explain why I slummed it with novelty yarn for a year or so in 2003/2004.

Bendigo Woollen Mills Shade Card 2009 - Inside

These days, I may have a stash containing some exciting new favourites like Malabrigo, Socks that Rock or Rowan, but for me there's still nothing quite like the delight of the heralded arrival of the Bendigo shade card. Blogland and Ravelry go crazy with speculation and dreaming as one by one, we announce we've recieved our cards.

Bendigo wool isn't everyone's cup of tea. I know there are knitters and crocheters who feel there's a bit too much focus on crepe; or that some of their colours in some of the ranges are a bit limited. Their cotton and baby wool has always been a bit traditional for my liking, a bit too safe. Love the yarn, long for more colours.

But for me, their Rustic, which is sturdy and yet soft, not machine washable and made from pure Australian merino is the wool for me. Here are just a few strands. It comes in the most wonderful colours.

Bendigo Woollen Mills 2009 Rustic

And their alpaca? Oh it's wonderful. I love it.

Bendigo Woollen Mills 2009 Alpaca

This year they have a new addition. A much anticipated addition. It's called Luxury, and from the feel of it, it is.

Bendigo Woollen Mills 2009 Luxury

It's so soft and in a departure for Bendigo, it's a machine washable wool that's not a crepe construction.

If you read Samurai Knitter, then you'll know that after a swap we did, Julie became quite the fan and, thanks to Bendigo finally joining the modern age and getting a website, she was able to place an order herself from the US. She often boasts she must be the only holder of a Bendigo Woollen Mills shade card in North America. I wonder if she is?

The prices are amazing, too. For eg, a 200g/7oz ball of Rustic would be AUS$11 or US$7 or ₤4.80. For the quality of it, there's really no beating the value.

Last night, curled up in bed with last year's shade card and the new one, comparing what had changed and what had stayed the same, I was struggling to think of a reason for buying more yarn because I was just longing to place an order. Yeah, I know, like we need a reason.

This morning, I came up with one. My little brother is not so little any more. He's turning 30 in May and given he's so very receptive of my hand knits I want to knit him a Pi Blanket, like the one I made for Sean (he doesn't read this blog so I can write about this safely, I'm sure. Mum, keep it a secret!). A few more hours of deliberating on the colour and I think I'll be ready to buy. And I might just get some of the Luxury, too. And surely I need the alpaca? For something? But which colour? Or colours?

I don't know but I'll have fun choosing.

Though I'm sure I would have discovered Bendigo eventually, I think I will always feel grateful to our elderly friend who shared her secret with me and my Mum all those years ago. For me, it's the fibre equivalent of comfort food. It just feels good and right.