Meet Stephen and our Other Secret Weapon

Published: June 2020

Spencer's Mountain Yarn (cone & skein)

Stephen and I met through the equivalent of a professional blind date.

I mentioned last month that my dream job was designing yarn. What I didn’t mention was the part where I wanted to design luxury style craft yarns for a domestic (U.S.) mill.  I also didn’t mention the fact that there just aren’t a lot of job listings that support that dream. And, oh by the way? I was already running my own hand-dye yarn company full-time! How to do both?

Well . . . . like any good blind date story, a good friend told Stephen that we had a lot in common; phone calls were exchanged (but no texts ‘cuz it’s a generational thang); first dates were had, and, well, you know — the rest is history. I joined the Meridian Specialty Yarn Group part-time as part of their Meridian Mill House team. Woohoo! Best blind date in (my) history. Some how, some way — we’re both making this long-distance relationship work.

Stephen Hudson is a secret weapon because he has been with Meridian Specialty Yarn Group (MSYG) for a very long time; in the textile industry Fo-o-or-Ever; and has done just about every job in the company. He’s done it all! And while he can’t knit (crochet or weave) worth a lick — he really does know his yarn and he’s a fellow fiber junky. It is so-o-o-o easy to waive a new fiber combination or yarn idea in front of him and we’re both off and running — oh shiny!

What’s so special about these two new yarns?  Well, besides the fact that they are completely cellulose (no wool); and, the fact that they are brushed and still not wool? Well, the secret is — they are made on a very special machine and they have no plys!

That’s right — no plys. I don’t think it is even possible to make these two yarns by hand on any kind of hand-spinning implement. And, believe me, I’ve tried.

Instead of traditional plys, there are actually 2 ends of filament yarn or, in this case, fine cotton singles, and 2 ends of roving being fed into the machine. You can think of this yarn as being “tangled” instead of twisted!

The real secret? The yarns we are introducing this month (Spencer Mountain – Worsted and Ranlo – Worsted) are both made with our other secret weapon the DIMA!  Our Dima is an air vortex fancy spinning machine.  It’s a “one of a kind” machine — well, actually “two of a kind” because well, . . . .we have two.

But even after handling and testing the yarn straight off of the DIMA, I didn’t think the yarn was ready for the big-time.  Spurred on by an idea from a conversation with Amy Singer of Knitty Magazine wherein we discussed “Why oh why aren’t there any soft yummy cotton yarns?”, I turned to Stephen and Doug (you’ll meet Doug in a later post) about the idea of softening the yarn a bit more. Brushing was the solution!

We softened the hand of the first yarn (Spencer Mountain) by brushing it lightly in a machine that is usually just used to brush mohair. This process added that softer, “warmer” hand to the  100% cotton yarn that we normally associate with hairier yarns like wool or mohair.  After that, we added some Bamboo to give it a bit more drape and a silkier hand — the result?  Ranlo-Worsted.

Spencer Mountain Pullover Other things that might surprise you about these yarns?  Well, they are a heck of a lot stronger than they should be and, I don’t think you’ll be able to find other yarns like them available for the hand-dyer market. And, they are both a great “warm weather” sweater yarn!

And, in case you are keeping track of this kind of thing . . .  Because these yarns can only be made the way we make them in our Ranlo spinning plant, Hannah named these yarns using really local landmarks. Ranlo is the name of the spinning mill’s small town. How small is it?  Well, there’s no post office so we can’t use it for our mailing address! And Spencer Mountain can easily be seen from the parking lot.  You can’t get much more local than that!

 Interview with Stephen

Hi Stephen, when we introduced Hannah last month, I forgot to mention that she’s a native North Carolinian.  I understand that you are actually from Yorkshire, England.  Would you have been considered a “Yorkshinian?”

I am from the West Riding of Yorkshire and would, in polite terms, be called a Yorkshireman. (Hey all, since I actually like Stephen, I left out the other names you can call a Yorkshireman!)

Stephen Hudson and grandkidsWell, now that you’re are a citizen living in North Carolina, we can call you a North Carolinian.  So Stephen, how long have you actually been here and what brought you to our shores?

Well, I’ve been here almost 20 years.  I was originally wooed to the country through a company transfer.  But, by the time that commitment was over, I was sucked in and just couldn’t leave. I’ve actually been a citizen for almost 10 years now.

Stephen Hudson - undercover in the factoryI remember that you told me a story about your earliest jobs in the wool industry.  Haven’t you done just about everything — from soup to nuts? Shearing to ….?

<p style="padding-left: 40px;"No, I haven't really done any shearing professionally, but I have done just about everything else. I started my career with the spinning company Thomas Burnleys and Sons right out of college. The company received greasy, raw wool; sorted, scoured, and carded it; and, of course spun the final yarns. Looking back, I am really fortunate to have learned this business from the ground up.  I started sorting the raw wool and kept learning each department through to the final winding.  By now, I have worked in manufacturing, technical services, product development, quality control and sales.

You actually started in the business right after completing a degree in textles.  What was it?  (I won’t ask when. :))

I earned a BSc hons degree in Textile technology in the UK.

I know that you’ve been recently having to draw on all of your experience in the mill as we all make our way through this tough time — but what is your official title and your normal job?
Stephen Formula One Superfan

I am the Senior VP of Sales.  I am responsible for sales and marketing at our Ranlo spinning plant and our Valdese dyeing facility. A big part of my job is developing new products and market segments. That’s why this project to develop a line of yarns specifically for the hand-dyer community has been so interesting. I’ve had to call on all of my experience — and learn about a whole new customer for us. It’s been great to see the whole Meridian Mill House on-line yarn shop open!

And last, but not least . . . wasn’t there a story about a hobby in your possibly mis-spent youth involving birds? Could you tell us about that? Other hobbies?

Well, like any stereotypical Yorkshireman, I had a whippet as a youngster and I later kept racing pigeons as a hobby. My grown-up hobby is being a Formula One fan.

 Spencer Mountain Pullover
designed by Jeane deCoster

Description: A small, single size, sleeveless pullover. It is knit from the bottom up and seamed together at the side seams and shoulders.  To finish, the neck band is picked and knit in the round. This single size miniature sweater is a great way to try out these yarns and end up with a potential shop sample.  Note: The sample garment was knit with random “stripes” of Drop Stitch.  Instructions for the Drop Stitch can be found easily by Googling “knit drop stitch.”

Spencer Mountain Pullover

  • Measurements:
    • Chest: 24″
    • Length: 11″
  • Materials: 1 skein Spencer Mountain Worsted
  • Tools:
    • US size 8 knitting needles for body
    • US size 7 or 8 double point needles for neck trim
    • tapestry needle for sewing seams
DIRECTIONS

Body – Make two
Cast on 42 sts.

Work in stockinette stitch for about 7 inches.

Increase for sleeve caplets:
Next row (RS): (Mk1R) 3 times, work across row to last 3 stitches, (Mk1L) in last 3 stitches.
Next row (WS): Work even.
Next row (RS): (Mk1R) 2 times, work across row to last 2 stitches, (Mk1L) in last 2 stitches.
Next row (WS): Work even.
Next row (RS): (Mk1R) once, work across row to last stitch, (Mk1L) in last stitch.
Work even : for about 2 inches. (54 stitches)

Begin neckline:
Next row (RS): Knit 19 sts, bind off 16 sts, knit last 19 stitches.

Work on First Armhole/Shoulder:
Next row (WS): Purl.
Next row (RS): Bind off 5 stitches (at the neck edge), knit to end. (14 sts) (Note: If you slip the first stitch of the bind off instead of knitting it, you eliminate the normal bind off “jog.”)
Next row (WS): Purl.
Next row (RS): Bind off 2 stitches (at the neck edge), knit to end. (12 sts)
Next row (WS): Bind off 4 stitches (at armhole edge), purl to end.
Next row (RS): Knit.
Next row (WS): Bind off 4 stitches (at armhole edge), purl to end.
Next row (RS): Knit.
Next row (WS): Bind off last 4 stitches. Cut yarn.

Work on second Armhole/shoulder:
Attach yarn at the other armhole edge and knit all 19 stitches.
Next row (WS): Bind off 5 stitches (at the neck edge), purl to end. (14 sts) (Note: If you slip the first stitch of the bind off instead of purling it, you eliminate the normal bind off “jog.”)
Next row (RS): Knit.
Next row (WS): Bind off 2 stitches (at the neck edge), Purl to end. (12 sts)
Next row (RS): Bind off 4 stitches (at armhole edge), knit to end.
Next row (WS): Purl.
Next row (RS): Bind off 4 stitches (at armhole edge), knit to end.
Next row (WS): Purl.
Next row (RS): Bind off last 4 stitches. Cut yarn.

Finishing:
Use Mattress stitch to sew the side seams and shoulder seams.
Pick up 56 stitches around neckline — placing a marker at after stitch 28 to mark shoulder seam and at the beginning/end of the round.
Round 1: Work in 2 x 2 rib.
Round 2: K2tog; staying in pattern work to 2 stitches before next marker, ssk, slip marker, k2tog; staying in pattern, work to last 2 stitches, ssk.
Repeat rounds 1 and 2 three more times (total 8 rounds). (42 stitches)
Bind off in pattern.

©2020 – This pattern is offered as a free pattern by Jeane deCoster and Meridian Mill House Yarn Shop. Best efforts have been made to provide an error free pattern.

* Meridian Mill House Yarn Store, 40 Rex Avenue, Gastonia, NC 28054 *
email: customerservice@meridianmillhouse.com

Jeane deCoster

Jeane deCoster

Author

Yarn designer, hand dyer, teacher, consultant. Owner (and chief dyer and bottle-washer) of her own indy yarn company, www.Elemental Affects.com.