For the love of wool

On the web this month it’s been a celebration of all this wool thanks to Wovember – the brainchild of Kate Davies, Felicity Ford, Tom of Holland and Louise Scollay. This online, grassroots movement pledges to ” show our collective appreciation of WOOL by wearing as much of this fabulous fibre as possible, and celebrating WOOL and its unique qualities in stories and pictures throughout the month of November. We hope that through our enthusiasm and creativity we can raise awareness of WHAT MAKES WOOL DIFFERENT, and jointly create a force for WOOL APPRECIATION strong enough to effect changes in how garments and textiles are described and marked.”

I’m absolutely in love with the texture on Justyna’s jumper pattern

Naturally, the worthy cause and excuse to knit with wool combined with the time of year and dropping temperatures makes Wovember a big hit amongst the knitting set. It’s also been a great excuse for me to wrap up my Threads sweater by Justyna Lorkowsa that I bought the yarn for from Eden Cottage when I was at Yarndale. I am completely in love with the rich purple of the colour and looking forward to a new woolly jumper now that there’s a nip in the air on the school run most mornings.

Or rather, I would wrap up my Threads jumper if I wasn’t being completely distracted by the yumminess of the aran-weight Shilasdair lambswool that I’ve liberated from deep stash to knit a version of the Shadowlines wrap FOR MYSELF as part of the Cosy Cables KAL that is now in full swing in the Inspiration Knits Ravelry group:

Shilasdair aran naturally dyed on the Isle of Skye from deep stash for a Shadowlines all of my own!

Knitting with the Shilasdair yarn will tick a number of boxes for me as part of the Wovember challenge. It’s wool, for a start. But it’s also naturally dyed and produced right here in the UK on the Isle of Skye. I love the story behind this yarn – the company was started by a woman who was dyeing her own yarns to use in her weaving but so many of her knitting friends saw it and asked her to dye yarns for them and before she knew it she was dyeing full time! I think it’s incredibly important in our yarn-y community to ask questions about where our materials come from so that we can be making informed decisions about the yarns we choose to buy and work with. Just like you might know more about the clothes you’re buying and wearing, or the food you’re eating and how far it’s traveled to your table, more and more knitters are beginning to ask about the provenance of the yarn that they’re buying.

I’m a big fan of buying local, especially when it comes to yarns. Here are a few of my woolly favourites from right here in the UK:

  • Countess Ablaze – In addition to the Countess’ luxury-blend offerings she also has a number of bases that are British wool spun right here in the UK. There’s The Bluefaced Baron – a 100% Bluefaced Leicester yarn – and then the more unusual but also breed-specific The Hebridean Knight and Right Honourable Ronaldsay. Both are made from 100% Scottish wool sourced and spun in the UK from Black Hebridean and North Ronaldsay sheep, respectively. What I really appreciate about the Countess is that she’s anticipated knitters asking questions about the source of her yarns and has captured all of the info on a chart about her yarn bases. She also mentions if something is a regular base that she dyes on, or if it’s less frequent – making it a little more rare and special, perhaps?
  • Triskelion Yarn and Fibre – Indie dyer Triskelion does his dyeing in Wales and like the Countess uses a number of different bases. He doesn’t use the same chart system but does note if a yarn is from British sources and if it’s spun in the UK. This is a good distinction to note as some British yarns (just like any sources) can be spun elsewhere such as Italy and then brought back to the UK. Although I’m not always a fan of single, Triskelion’s rich, jewel tones shine particularly well on his Gwyn fingering weight – a singles yarn that is a mix of superwash BFL and Falklands merino. The yarn is 100% from British sources and spun in Yorkshire.
  • West Yorkshire Spinners  – My favourite from the West Yorkshire spinners was used for one of the “play” swatches for Shadowlines – their Bluefaced Leicester Aran. WYS have a number of British breed yarns including Jacobs and Wensleydale. What’s particularly nice about these yarns are that they are undyed and only come in the natural colours of the sheep. Projects worked up in these natural yarns will a lovely, earthy quality to them.

I confess that my knowledge of yarns local to you on the other side of the pond is extremely limited but here are two that are from the United States that I’d like to try:

  • Brooklyn Tweed – I feel like Jared Flood’s yarn has set the standard for a designer creating their own yarn! The story behind the yarn is truly wonderful and shows the passion that this company has for sourcing and producing their yarn at home in the US. What is fascinating to me about this yarn is the process of how the wool is dyed first, then blended with other shades before it is spun to create unique, heathered shades.
  • Swans Island Company – Originally started as a handmade woven blankets company, Swans Island is one one of four organic mills in the US and keeps strict standards to maintain their organic certification. Their process and values is an inspiring read – I love their ethos and would love to try this yarn.

Whatever is on your needles right now – I hope it’s wool! And if you’re on the other side of the pond I’d love to hear about local-to-you yarns that you enjoy working with. Please let me know in the comments!

PS – Congratulations to Wendiwooknits, the Instagram winner of our Eden Cottage Yarns Whitfell DK and Drift giveaway from last week! 

PPS – with apologies to the wool-allergic. Sorry this isn’t your month.

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