| June 2016 Update
There have been a lot of changes and new yarns introduced since this post first went out three years ago and so I have updated it to reflect this.
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Previously I highlighted a few UK wool yarns which hopefully wouldn’t dent even the tightest yarn purse strings. If you have a few extra pennies to spend on your stash this month (does anyone else *try* to budget for stash?) then you might be interested in reading on.
I don’t pretend that when the price goes up so does the quality (for example, I would say that the Jamieson & Smith I mentioned last time is worth its weight in gold and it carries a relatively small price tag for 100% Shetland wool) and I do not claim that one wool is better than another, but what I would like to do is show a little example of what is grown/spun/dyed right here in the UK and show that just because it is wool doesn’t mean it has to be extortionately priced.
Wensleydale Longwool Sheep Shop
I first discovered this lovely yarn at the first Edinburgh Yarn Festival. I don’t remember the name of the stall, all I could see was the brilliant lustre on the yarn and the gorgeous colours – from natural to earthy tones to pastels and bright jewelled solid tones. I made my lush cardigan in this and I think this is my favourite knitted item. The fabric has never lost it’s lustre and I hardly ever need to de-pill it. Wensleydale is an incredible hardwearing yarn and the wool of the breed is considered the finest lustre fleece. Do not let the surface halo of fibres on the yarn and knitted fabric make you believe this yarn is coarse! I love wearing this next to my skin and the spin of this particular brand is perhaps the best I have seen in terms of producing a great stitch definition and a lovely knitted fabric (some Wensleydale yarns can be spun very loose to create a fuzzier yarn with more of a prickle).
Wensleydale Longwool Sheep Shop yarns are available in range of weights and are found at various stockists, such as BritYarn. Prices are around £7.45
Blacker Yarns Limited Edition and Rare Wool
It is probably no surprise that I utterly love browsing the yarns in this section of the Blacker Yarns shop! Like micro-brewed craft beers these yarns are special and rare, so the products can change often. If you are looking to try different breed yarns and also to support breed wool from the Rare Breeds Watchlist then this is your first stop! You will find Teeswater, North Ronaldsay, Wensleydale, Castlemilk Moorit, to name but only a few, in various weights from lace to chunky.
Prices are all around the £5 to £6 mark, with some coming under a fiver. You will also find natural shades and dyed colourways too (the Teeswater dyed colours are all completely tempting!). Do also check out the other amazing breed yarns at Blacker, such as the amazing Jacobs, which comes in natural shades and starts at around £5.40 per 50g ball.
I am a huge fan of John Arbon, a small scale mill based in Devon. I first met with their sock yarn – a blend of British alpaca and Exmoor Blue Face wool – and quickly I was checking out the rest of their yarn range. Last year I bought the three shades of the Zwartbles DK yarn; the darkest is 100% Zwartbles and the lighter shades have been blended with Exmoor Blue Face. This is a beautiful yarn with a lot of great character and texture. The three together would look stunning in a gradient design, don’t you think?
The Zwartbles DK is £8 for 100g/250m. If you prefer your yarn with a zingy colour you should also check out their Harvest Hues 4ply, (£10) which contains 35% Zwartbles, and comes in really popping shades.
Designer Kate Davies launched Buachaille last year. Kate worked very closely with Curtis Wool to source exactly the right kind of Scottish fibres to create a blend, which is not only the perfect bouncy, woolly, most knitable fibre, but it has been spun beautifully and has a colour palette to get really excited about! Buachaille is 100% wool yarn, grown in Scotland and made in Yorkshire and I think it is such an important British wool – it really shows you how unique and full of character British wool can be.
Each DK skein comes in 50g/110m and her shop is updated weekly. Buachaille costs £7.49. I reviewed this in the podast in episode 53, if you need further enabling.
A Yarn from North Ronaldsay
Based on the Orkney island where the sheep are native, A Yarn From North Ronaldsay have a small-scale mill where they process and produce yarn from the rare, seaweed eating breed. Since establishing the mill in 2003 the company has evolved from selling hand knitting wool to selling rovings, batts, felt and knitwear. This is a very strong wool – soft and hairy. Its one of those wools that you might says has an initial coarse handle; I have to admit when I first took mine out of the parcel I thought “this is not soft”! But it is actually an incredible texture of crisp and soft and I think that’s due to the double coat – a protective outer layer to guard against the elements and a softer, finer layer beneath.The hanks come in the natural colours and range in weights and meterage
| Update: I find that the mill website is not updated often. I would recommend checking out BritYarn who stock these yarns. Prices start at £8.50
Again, I am not stating that one wool is better than another (they are all wonderful – I want them ALL!) and I could probably give you a list as long as my arm, but I think this is a great representative sample if you wanted to experiment with local bred fibre and I hope, if you haven’t sampled some of these before, you might feel inspired to give it a go.
You can also tweet about your projects using the #knitbritish hashtag too.
| Information Images are copyright to owners as stated, other images are mine. Information correct at time of posting (Jan 2013, update June 2016) These views are 100% my own. I have not been paid to feature yarns/companies here.