Quince & Co. was launched in 2010 by Pam Allen in partnership with a historic mill in Maine. Pam has worked in the handknitting industry as a freelance knitwear designer, editor of Interweave Knits, and creative director at a major hand-knitting yarn company.
Before starting Quince & Co., Pam found that the traditional way that yarn companies produce new yarns – going to trade shows and choosing from yarns designed by spinning mills – was unsatisfying and ultimately did not yield great products. She wanted to work with mills to design yarns from the ground up. Pam was also frustrated by how difficult it was to have yarns made in the US, where there was once a venerable textile tradition.
Pam recruited fellow designer and yarnophile Carrie Bostick Hoge and, together with inventive and resourceful folks at spinning mills around the northeast, they created a line of classic, beautiful yarns from wool sourced and spun in the US. With those yarns they designed a line of modern knitting patterns for sweaters and accessories lovely in their simplicity, which echoed the “thoughtful essentials” nature of the yarn.
Since then, Quince has grown its offerings well beyond the core wool yarns and a few patterns, while maintaining the dedication to quality, history, and the modern, clean aesthetic that started it all.
Businesses do not exist in a vacuum. Every business is dependent on, and in turn is depended upon by the people, businesses and organizations around it. We think businesses can be good citizens—should be good citizens—without making too much of a fuss about it.
This is why we produce our products as locally as we can, sourcing and spinning our yarns in the US, as much as possible. All of our wool and wool-blend yarns are spun in historic American mills from territory wool. By sourcing our wool in the US and manufacturing our yarn locally, we minimize our carbon footprint and we help keep American ranches from turning into parking lots. Whenever possible we also source our alpaca, merino (fancy term for fine wool), and mohair here in America.
But, hey, as much as we want to work with American fiber, we also want to enjoy the pleasures of fibers that aren't readily available in the US. When we use fibers that aren’t from the US, we find out as much as possible about where they are from and how they came to be. If we're sourcing a yarn from a plant fiber, such as our organic linen in Sparrow and Kestrel, we want to know if it was grown in conditions that are healthy for the soil and for those who tend and harvest it. If we're looking for an animal fiber, we want to know if the animal was raised in a way that sustains the earth and preserves the culture of the people who care for it.
The continuous flood of cheaply and often inhumanely produced clothing, often referred to as “fast fashion,” does little to support the communities around it. From the makers to the customers, “fast fashion” is unsustainable and exploitative. Americans on average throw away 68 lbs of textiles each year. That “garbage” took roughly 145 million tons of coal and more than 1.5 trillion gallons of water to make.
We are delighted to see an increase in ready-to-wear companies interested in slow fashion, clothing meant to be appreciated, worn and maintained for a long time. We think that the care and effort that goes into knitting your own garment is the ultimate cure to cheap, disposable clothing. When we take something from yarn to sweater, we form a connection with the clothing. We make it our own, and we make it to cherish.
Wool is the best. It’s cozy when you want to be warm, it’s airy when you want to be cool, it’s a joy on the needles, it’s hypoallergenic, and it’s all natural and renewable. This list goes on but we’ll stop there for now.
Our core line of wool yarns is made from American wool known in the trade as “territory” wool. This wool comes from Merino, Rambouillet, and Columbia-based sheep that roam the ranges of Montana and Wyoming.
For Piper and Ibis, our soft and fuzzy (but not too fuzzy) wool/mohair blends, we source superfine merino from Texas ranches which make some of the softest fiber available in the world. Once called the “world capital of natural fiber” for both its wool and mohair output, Texas’s wool output has shrunk from over 80 million lbs in 1943 to under 8 million lbs in 2000. But the end of the Federal subsidies and price floor in the 1990s has encouraged farmers to concentrate more on quality than quantity. The results speak for themselves – soft, buoyant fiber that is perfect for pretty Piper and irresistible Ibis.
Alpaca fiber is smoother than wool, allowing thicker alpaca fiber to feel softer than similarly sized wool fiber, and giving alpaca a soft sheen. Spun on its own, however, alpaca yields either a weak yarn, or a highly twisted, dense, heavy yarn. By blending wool with alpaca in our Owl line, we get the best qualities of both fibers, elasticity and bounce from wool, a soft hand and halo from alpaca.
The commercial alpaca market in the US is in a nascent stage. When we first created Owl, we used American alpaca. It made a great yarn, and we were happy to help the growth of the industry here. When we went to make our second batch of Owl, however, we were unable to find enough American alpaca in the colors and quality we needed. So we went overseas to New Zealand where their industry is more advanced, and we could get the colors we needed. We are continuing to work with American suppliers to help them grow the industry to the point where it can be a reliable, consistent source for us.
Mohair fiber comes from the hair of Angora goats. Its luster and fuzziness make it a prized fiber for hand-knitters and fashion connoisseurs alike.
We source our mohair from Texas ranches that produce some of the finest mohair in the world and which are known as well for their fiber’s style (twist and ringlets) and character (crimp and waves). Mohair fiber with optimal style and character are the easiest to process and create the best, most consistent yarns. For Piper and Ibis we use super kid mohair, the soft, soft fiber from young kid goats.
The Texas mohair industry used to export 35 million tons of fiber annually. Today, mohair export is roughly one million tons annually, resulting in fewer ranches, and a wasteland of closed collection and processing facilities that used to employ hundreds of people. The vast majority of what remains of the Texas mohair crop goes to South Africa for processing. We like to think we’re “rescuing” a small piece of the crop when we send it to American processors.
Humans have used linen to make textiles for millennia, perhaps as far back as 30,000 years ago. And for good reason. Linen is very durable and comfortable to wear, especially after it has been broken in. It also has a subtle sheen that we love, and it is wonderfully airy in the spring and summer months.
Fine linen is not grown in commercial quantities in the US, so we went to the heart of historic linen production, Belgium, to find the finest quality GOTS-certified organic linen we could find. Flax, the plant from which linen is derived, is a hearty crop that generally needs few pesticides, little water, and little to no fertilizer. We chose organic fiber to ensure that there were no toxic chemicals used at any point, from growing to processing to dyeing, and that the workers along the way are treated fairly.
Grown by family farmers in California, Cleaner Cotton™ consists of long and extra-long staple, acala and pima cotton fibers. These luxurious fibers combine to make an incredibly smooth and soft yarn, with just a hint of sheen.
Though California is capable of growing some of the finest cotton in America, it is unfortunately not possible for most farmers there to grow organic cotton economically. Given the grave environmental problems with conventional cotton growing, but knowing that we wanted to work with the best fiber we could, we turned to the folks at the Sustainable Cotton Project, who produce Cleaner Cotton™. Cleaner Cotton™ growers take a pragmatic approach to farming responsibly, eliminating the most harmful chemicals used in conventional growing, and using integrated pest management practices whenever possible, all while using less water than organic methods. Read more about Cleaner Cotton™ here.
Tussah silk, made from wild and domesticated Antherea silkworkms, is the humane silk. Tussah silk is collected by boiling silkworm cocoons after the worm has taken wing and emptied its shell. Mulberry silk, on the other hand, is made by boiling the cocoons with the silkworm still inside. We are on the hunt for more traceable sources of silk, but for now we buy our silk on the commodity market. It generally comes from India and China.
Quince & Co. wool yarns are 100% sourced and spun in the US. By sourcing and manufacturing our wool line in the US, we minimize our carbon footprint and bring business to the once great American textile industry.
Each Quince yarn is unique. They vary not only in weight but in structure and personality as well. Read on.
Three-ply Chickadee is a well-rounded, bouncy, and elastic sport weight. Although smooth, tidy, and refined in the skein, it makes a fabric with even stitches, drape, softness, and a hint of halo to smooth things out. Use this yarn when you want etched textures, clean-cut cables, and crisp colorwork patterns. Try it in breezy cardigans when you want fluid drape or in cozy accessories that are comfortable next to your skin.
Chickadee knits up on size US 3 to 7 needles [3.25 to 4.5mm], depending on what you’re looking for. It’s the perfect all around, sport weight yarn.
Finch is a little sprite, a fingering weight yarn with spark. Its four neatly twisted plies give the yarn a smooth, tailored finish that’s sturdy and hardwearing. It's soft to the touch, drapey, and perfectly balanced for even stockinette-stitch fabric. It’s supreme in delicately articulated texture stitches, cables, and lace patterns. And its well-defined structure makes it great for pretty Fair Isle patterns.
We like it at 6-7 stitches per inch on size US 3 and 4 needles [3.25 and 3.5mm]. Drop down to US 2’s [2.75mm] when you want a tight fabric. Loosen it up on US 5’s [3.75mm] when you want drape and swing.
Lark is the perfect, classic worsted weight yarn. Its four plump plies are twisted just enough to ensure durability, without any loss of loft and drape. The yarn is round, soft, and well-balanced for smooth, even stitches. Lark’s traditional plied structure shows off texture stitches and cables brilliantly. And it’s great for well-defined colorwork patterns, too. Its subtle halo invites caresses. Beware.
Lark is versatile: Knit it on size US 6 [4mm] needles for a windproof mitten and on size US 8’s [5mm], or even 9’s [5.5mm], for a drapey, open cardigan.
Osprey is an Aran weight yarn made from three plies of superfine American merino. The plies are gently twisted together for a cushy yarn with good bounce. Osprey reigns in stockinette and garter; its relaxed plies round and fill out the stitches. And it’s beautiful in texture and color patterns, making them bold and eye-catching.
Osprey knits up handily on size US 10 and 10 ½ [6 and 6.5mm] needles into garments wooly and soft. It’s perfect in pullovers and cozy cardigans, hats and mitts and anything you’d like to wear close to the skin.
Puffin is a round, chunky single-ply yarn spun from sturdy American wool fleece. We’ve worked hard to balance the yarn’s loft and soft hand with its durability. Too much twist and it would feel like rope. Too little, it would pill from the get go. Because single plies have a tendency to pill—the fibers on the surface aren’t secured by a twisted, multi-ply structure—we dye Puffin after it’s spun. This means that the surface fibers are ever so slightly felted to make them cling together, more resistant to lifting and pilling.
Puffin knits up quickly on a size US 13 or 15 [9 or 10mm) needle to make garments with a subtle halo and comfortable hand. It’s great for outdoor sweaters, and it’s perfect for the quick hat or pair of mittens.
We created our "Bare" yarns with hand-dyeing in mind. This yarn is completely natural, with no dyes added. Straight from the mill. Available currently in Chickadee, Lark, Osprey, and Tern. We want to see your creations! Please tag your photos with #quincebare.
Landing right in the sweet spot of DK weight is our decadent bird Phoebe. Soft, luxurious, structured and plump due to its four-ply structure, Phoebe is made from the finest commercially-available extra-fine merino top grown, spun and dyed right here in the United States.
Ideal for many types of projects from simple stockinette to textural stitch patterns and lace, we suggest knitting Phoebe at a gauge of 5 to 5½ stitches per inch on size US 5-7 (3.75-4.5 mm) needles. Coming in at 301 yards [275 m] per 100g skein, the yarn's beautiful, tonal-dyed palette ranges from delicately nuanced to sophisticated variegation. Garments and accessories worked in Phoebe will be appreciated for their snuggle factor and cozy warmth. And knitting with this yarn is itself a treat—an ultra-soft, uniquely satisfying experience that is out of this world.
Phoebe's shifting landscapes of tone and color:
We’ve blended American wool with alpaca for Owl, a pliant two-ply, woolen spun light worsted weight yarn. We kept the same sizing and spin for Owl Tweet, but added wool with shorter fibers for a nubby, tweedy effect. Why woolen spun? Because alpaca is a hollow fiber and the best way to preserve its loft and buoyancy is to keep a lot of air in its structure. Squishy and plump, Owl knits up between 4 ½ to 5 stitches per inch, the perfect weight for just about everything. Because it blooms after washing, you can work Owl on US 8 and 9 needles [5 and 5.5mm]. The round plies bloom to fill in your stitches and create a relaxed and drapey fabric with lots of pretty halo.
Owl comes in a range of natural shades, from deep and dark to misty light. We also overdye the natural blends for muted heathery shades ranging from airy pastels to deep, rich jewel colors.
In little Tern, we’ve blended wool and silk for a smooth, defined fingering yarn. We love how the silk fibers lend drape and a slight sheen to knitted fabric. And we especially appreciate the faded colorways which result from the different ways that silk and wool absorb dye.
Use Tern in socks; its silk component has great tensile strength and the wool therein contributes elasticity and warmth. Use the yarn in open, swingy cardigans; you won’t believe the drape. Use it for mitts and hats and anything you want next to the skin. Tern is great year round; it’s warm and pretty in winter, but light and flowing worked into a summer cardi.
Showcasing mohair's well-known qualities, ethereal Piper is our single-ply laceweight yarn comprised of 50% super kid mohair, 50% superfine merino, both sourced right here in Texas, USA. With its comforting halo and soft sheen, Piper creates a lightweight, yet ultra-warm fabric, soft enough for next-to-skin wear.
Its versatile weight lends itself not only to lace projects, but to hats, mitts, garments, and other projects just as well. We suggest a gauge of 6–7 stitches per inch on size US 3 (3.25 mm) to US 5 (3.75 mm) needles as a starting point, but worked on larger needles at a looser gauge, it can produce a wonderful, airy lace; on smaller needles, a firmer fabric that can ward off winter's chilliest temps.
Ibis is a big sister to our laceweight Piper. A 2-ply bulky weight comprised of the same Texas-sourced 50% super kid mohair, 50% superfine merino content as Piper, Ibis boasts the same gorgeous halo, sheen, and silky softness, in a luscious weight that's quick to work and super warm.
Perfect for accessories and sweaters that are meant to keep the cold at bay, we recommend a gauge of 2.5–2.75 stitches per inch on size US 11 (8 mm) to US 13 (9 mm) for ample warmth and a luxurious fabric that needs to be worn to be believed.
Kestrel is spun from the same superlative organic linen fiber as Sparrow (below), but its structure and appearance couldn’t be more different. Kestrel is a ribbon yarn, a small knitted tube. It knits up super quick on US 10 [6mm] needles. We love it in plain stockinette stitch and simple silhouettes—the better to show off its texture and drape. When you want quick summer knitting in the lovely linen, use Kestrel.
Sparrow is a plain little yarn, beautiful in its simplicity. Its clean, smooth hand is crisp as you knit it. But after washing and wearing it becomes handkerchief-soft and drapey. It’s spun in Italy from organic linen grown in Belgium. Knit Sparrow on a variety of needle sizes—we’ve used needles from size US 2 to size 6 [2.75 to 4mm] —depending on the drape and feel you want in your project. The yarn is a natural in lace patterns, carving out the yarn overs, but it’s fluid, too, in simple stockinette. It’s great in tanks, shawls, and breezy cardigans, and lovely as can be in bags, wash cloths, and other home accessories.
Summery Willet is our go-to sport/DK-weight 100% acala and pima cotton yarn, perfect for just about any project. Spun from California-grown Cleaner Cotton™, a lot of care and attention went into sourcing this longer-staple fiber. Crisp definition and a delightful sheen are qualities cotton is best known for, and the fiber sings in Willet's cheerful, sophisticated palette.
Knit it on US 5 (3.75 mm) needles for baby garments, blankets, hats, mitts, sweaters…the possibilities are endless. Its softness is also easier on the hands than the unforgiving cotton yarns many knitters and crocheters are familiar with.
We believe that all knitting is equal. Some days we crave intricate stitches on tiny needles; other times we want to plow quickly through a comfort project on chunky yarn with large needles. Either way we're happy making something we know we'll want to wear.
We tend toward projects that are utilitarian and friendly—the sweater you reach for when you’re about to make tea or grab the dog's leash for a walk. But we also like the precious, labor-of-love, little jewel of a knitted accessory, a delicately cabled mitt, a lace shawl, you know the kind of thing.
We also think that the yarn in a project is an important design element. We try to imagine how a particular project design will best showcase our yarns’ advantages, their weight and drape potential, how they fill out and define stitches, their ability to showcase a pretty texture.
We want your knitting experience to be a pleasure, and your project to be a success. To that end, we've written our patterns in as clear and user-friendly a way as possible. We've explained the techniques we use, added notes, and offered links to full descriptions of specific techniques we like.