From Farm to Yarn: Part 1

Hello and happy February, I mean August! I don’t mean to start this blog post moaning about the weather, but I’m British, and actually since I’m all about all things British I’m going to give myself a free pass and I just need to say COME ON SUNSHINE, SORT IT OUT! It has been cold, grey and wet this week, cold I say! But then every cloud has a silver lining and I’ve been quite excited at the thought of all the autumn knits I’m going to start...

Now I’m going to let you all in to my exciting news. Way back in February when Northern Yarn was just a little pip of an idea, I was driving along Derwent Road (I remember my exact location for some reason) and I thought hang on, my daughter’s friend at school lived on a local farm and kept sheep. Hmmm, could I maybe get some REALLY local yarn produced??  I felt like I had the whole of Williamson Park’s Butterfly House residents in my stomach and couldn’t wait to talk to Lyn from the farm at school pick up.

Now I have always loved knitting, but exploring natural fibres and my love for real wool is a relatively recent thing. The more I learn the more I want to know. The last six months has been such a journey.  I have learned from my customers and suppliers, from great books particularly a fabulous British Sheep Breed book Lyn gave to me and another recommendation from a friend: Clara Parkes’ Book of Wool.  All new information for my brain to digest. Lyn and Michael keep Pedigree Sheep; Poll Dorsets and Southdowns. (As well as cross breeds and cattle, cats, dogs and an owl who lives in their barn!) Having visited the farm several times it’s clear that the animals are really cared for. As well as conventional medicine the farm also use Bioenergetics, a modern form of Homeopathy that analyses a flock or a herd from either its milk or wool and then uses remedies to enable the animal to heal itself by balancing it energetic systems. Really fascinating stuff.  Lyn explained what happened currently with their wool, how much they received and when. I want to give them more than the £1 per kilo they currently receive from the Wool Board. After seeing the quality of the fleece they definitely deserve more for it.

After doing lots of research and speaking to various mills I decided to go for it. The idea of having Lancastrian Wool from local pedigree sheep, from local farmers whom I know and respect, excites me no end. I’d love to be able to get involved in the process, to learn how it all works and see a way of life totally different from my own. But I had to burst my own bubble; I knew absolutely nothing about fleece. How would I know what was a good one? Cue a few months of uncertainty!

But first of all, Lyn’s sheep needed shearing! The July weather wasn’t good and time was running out. Almost like waiting for an "I'm in labour" call I got 'the call' to say the sheep were being sheared and could I come over! I was a little apprehensive, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was worried that it would be a bit traumatic (for the sheep and me!) but I needn’t have worried. I arrived to see the Poll Dorset lambs being shorn, sitting like Eeyore, a little undignified granted, but totally relaxed as far as I could see a part from a few struggles and twisty moves. I had a sudden surge of gratitude to these animals, I wanted to go and give them a cuddle, and then I saw the wonderful wool tumbling from the shearers.

The wool came off in pieces, being lambs, and I hadn’t considered having it spun as I presumed it would be too short. But the staple was averaging 1 ½ - 2 ½ inches! And the most beautiful crimp, silky, fine and just lovely. I tried to think when I had last seen lamb’s wool available as hand knitting yarn. I know my grandma used to love it, but personally I haven’t  seen much of it available. I made a decision pretty quickly, I wanted to knit with this, I wanted others to knit with this, those butterflies were back again! I kept a lock (right word??) of fleece in my hand all evening, admiring it and even taking it to my knitting group where it was placed centre stage for all to see.

That's all for now, but I’ll be back soon with project From Farm to Yarn: Part 2 very soon!

In the mean time, stay warm and keep knitting. 

Kate. xxx