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The Seashell Cowl

Alexis Hoy

The Seashell Cowl is now available on Ravelry

Back in May, at a meeting of the Guelph Guild of Handweavers and Spinners, a woman named Wendy Cross came and sat next to me during the break, and boy am I ever glad she did.

I happened to be working on the sample for the Lavender Scarf at that meeting, and Wendy asked me what I was making, and if I had designed it myself. When I answered yes, she brought out a bag of yarn to show me with the air of a proud mama.

This yarn, she told me, came from her own alpacas – a small herd that she raises on her picturesque little spread near Belwood, Ontario. Her farm is called Lady Slipper Alpacas: all her alpacas have botanical names, and they’re adorable. Every skein’s label features a picture of the alpaca who “donated” the fibre. And, oh hey, would I be interested in designing some patterns for the yarn?

That was the moment where things started to snowball, as I told my friend this morning around 3 AM, struggling with my insomnia (it sure helps to have a friend in Germany who’s awake when the rest of your world isn’t): “Everything is snowballing,” I said. “In a good way, but also a crazy-spinny way.” Hence me being awake at 3 AM, ticking things off my to-do list.

Of course I said yes – how could I not? The yarn is gorgeous, natural, and local. I was practically drooling into Wendy’s bag. When Kismet throws that sort of snowball your way, what are you going to do but catch it and run?

I won’t lie, I’m starting to feel the burn a little, if you’ll forgive my metaphor mixology. When I agreed to make a small collection of patterns for Lady Slipper Alpacas, I was already working on a collection of my own (debuting very soon!). When I got home and showed the yarn to Thomas, he agreed – I couldn’t turn down the opportunity, even though I was signing myself (and my family) up for a very work-heavy summer. I cast on the cowl that very night, based on a sketch I made in 2012. The yarn and design were a perfect match. The kismet continued.

What I didn’t anticipate at the time was that starting this cowl would affect my business in such a profound way. I now find myself signed up to be a vendor at the KW Knitters’ Fair in three weeks’ time, possessed of a shiny new wholesale account, and watching my Ravelry sales skyrocketing as I type this. For an independent designer (and a full-time mother) who officially opened up shop eight months ago with the intention of releasing patterns at my own pace (i.e. slowly), the current rate is thrilling, dizzying, and sweeping me along with it. Each new piece that falls into place increases the forward momentum, and the three year plan I thought I had is shortening literally by the minute. I keep hearing that line from the movie Almost Famous run through my head at odd moments: “It’s all happening!”

I knew, when I put the finishing touches on the cowl, that I had something pretty special. I didn’t expect the response to be so immediate and overwhelming. I’m so grateful to each person (worldwide!) who has supported my efforts and sent me such great feedback. I can’t wait to follow this snowball’s trajectory to the next big thing and then the next. The fall is going to be such an exciting, challenging time for Phibersmith Designs. Thank you so much for making it all happen. And thanks to my family and friends for giving me the support and space to keep up with it.

The Seashell Cowl

Invoking those treasured beach finds, this “seashell” features a truly unique structure. Built in a seamless spiral, it is organically and beautifully asymmetrical. The touch of lace and ruffling finish it off with flair. The yarn is a unique blend of sheep’s wool and the softest, coziest alpaca, lovingly raised near Belwood, Ontario. This one is a keeper for sure. (Pull it over your head – can you hear the ocean?)

For yarn buying information visit Lady Slipper Alpacas or contact Wendy Cross: wcross AT hsfx DOT ca.

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