The Making of Methera
One pleasant afternoon in the shop, many moons ago, myself and Katherine chatted about having fleece processed and how we could try a worsted spun yarn, with set colours - which turned out to be much more complicated than you would imagine. Before this point all the yarns I had processed had been breed specific and small batch - coming from one small, local flock. Making this possible was Halifax Spinning Mill; Paul would take 30 kilos of unwashed (greasy) fleece and do everything; wash, card and spin, which was just perfect. No one will commercially dye that amount of yarn so the next step was having smaller batches hand dyed - I loved seeing the different styles from Angela Gardner, Thorndolly Yarn Coastal Colours, Pook & RiverKnits and still enjoy having limited editions dyed up.
Katherine set about ringing around and gathering information and although it took a few months of pondering and adding up, we had our answer to our perfect yarn - we just needed a massive amount of fleece to get there! We decided we wanted a blend with a majority of cheviot; having admired pure cheviot yarn from Shear Delight. (Dodgson Wood.) A long staple, not too soft and not too crisp - our Goldilocks fleece! We almost had a very local supply of cheviot, the sheep were from nearby fells but unfortunately the fleeces were full of peat. We investigated further and although there is a process to remove this - we decided to try another flock. It just so happened that Maria at Dodgson Wood had some to spare - and we snapped it up! George’s Marvellous Medicine style we added some Bluefaced Leicester for strength, Shetland for it’s soft and woolly character and Zwartbles to give us a perfect natural light grey, just 5% would give us the right depth of colour. One Sunday afternoon we travelled around Lancashire & Cumbria visiting the farms, picking and collecting our fleeces. (With a spot of lunch of course!)
We wanted to keep it as local as we could, several spinners would take our fleece, but not until it had been scoured and carded. So early (so very early) one cold, February morning, off we went to Yorkshire! We arrived at Haworths and walked down a path that was almost made of fleece, giant towers of fleece bales loomed either side of us - each warehouse held more bales bursting with wool it was awesome to see. Our 200 kilos suddenly felt like a tiny drop in the ocean in comparison.
We were lucky enough to be able to watch our fleeces go through the huge washing tubs and then in to the biggest tumble drier I’ve ever seen! Within a couple of hours we were watching our very clean and dry fleece being squashed into a bale so we could take it to the carders just down the road. We were really looked after and the director gave us a tour of the works and despite the plant scouring hundreds of tonnes of fleece per second (pretty sure that’s totally accurate) we were treated as valued customers - our special blend was ready to go on it’s next leg of the journey.
I have to say, the day was filled with really lovely people - when we got to the carders, we were invited in for a brew and a tour by the director Nic. Seeing the lovely coils of tops spinning around like candy floss was almost too much, I wanted to dive down one of the shoots like Veruca Salt to live out my days in a bed of carded tops. But with no singing umpa lumpas to fish me out, we composed ourselves and went for a curry instead! We couldn't stay to watch our fleece being carded but Nic took the time to take photos of all the steps - can you tell how much love I felt this day?!
We were delighted when a sample of the tops came back! Cloud like and the most gorgeous grey. Choosing colours was no easy feat - we only had enough tops for 3 colours and we wanted them all to work together; a mustard was a must (ard) and dusky pink and a green seemed to look great. Sharing this project with Katherine was lovely, picking breeds and colours together made for some very enjoyable afternoons.
We launched our beautiful Methera at Yarndale last September and I’ve loved having enough yarn processed so that it stays in the shop as a consistent line of Northern Yarn. Last years clip has already been collected, scoured and carded and we’ll be adding in a new colour or two this year!
Methera (4) from the ancient Northern counting system; a worsted spun 4 ply yarn - 4 breeds from 4 local farms.