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episode 62 – The Border Mill

Welcome back to the podcast after a lovely wee break. I am jumping straight back into the action with a really wonderful tour of The Border Mill. 

Listen to the podcast

You can also listen on iTunes, the podcast app, or search your favourite podcatcher, if you prefer!

John and Juliet Miller decided to make a career change 5 years ago. They already had a 2 acre walled garden where they kept their growing herd of alpaca and, after long waiting times to have the fleece spun (and often large minimum batch size requirements) they decided they would set up their own small scale fibre mill, specialising in alpaca. John and Juliet take minimum fibre batches of 1.5kg and as soon as they opened it was clear that there were a lot of clients who also wanted to spin small batch alpaca fibre, sheep wool and other fibres.

It wasn’t until 2013 that they started to produce their own alpaca yarn, for the first Edinburgh Yarn Festival and their own range has grown exponentially since then. The Border Mill range now includes a lopi-style yarn, blended with Falkland merino, alpaca and mohair, alpaca and BFL, alpaca tweed and the forthcoming alpaca and silk. The Border Mill also works closely with clients to ensure that the fibre they send to the mill becomes the best possible yarn for their needs. Their clients include Sariann Lehrer, who produces the single breed, single flock Chopped Ginger project and Hooligan Yarns, who sell single sheep yarns – if you have worked with, squished or seen these particular yarns you will be well aware of how special these yarns are. 

John gave us a tour of the mill and the entire process. Please listen in to the episode and join is on that tour – grab your WIP and drink! Read More

Woolly Mucker Review: Plaw Hatch Lleyn

Plaw Hatch Farm is a 200 acre biodynamic farm in Sussex, England. The shepherdess of the Plaw Hatch flock of sheep is Gala, [@FarmerGala on Instagram] and I was delighted when she got in touch recently to ask if the woolly muckers would like to try some of her organic yarn.

The Plaw Hatch flock consists of Lleyn and Romney and they also have some Jacob and the yarn that they have had spun so far has been Demeter certified and has been spun organically at the Natural Fibre company. Later in the year there will be more Romney, Jacob, Lleyn and X yarns, but Gala was very kind in sending some of their pure, organic Lleyn for myself and two woolly mucker reviewers to try out.

I gave both Louise (louisepants) and Katie (MissGoggins) the chance to know what the breed yarn was or go in for a blind review and both of them plumped for the mystery… so this is the first time they are finding out what the yarn is! Read More

Wool Exploration: Dorset breeds

What have I let myself in for? Our seventh month of wool exploration looks at Dorset Horn, Dorset Down, Poll Dorset AND Portland. Portland has been a last minute addition, as it was pointed out to me that – of course – it is also a breed from that same area.

I thought it would be fun to look at these four breeds, which all originate from the same patch of England. We may find big similarities between them, but perhaps we shall find contrasts too. Wool Exploration has shown us how one breed can make vastly different yarns and fabrics, so this ought to be interesting.

In my bible – The Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook – Deb Robson and Carol Ekarius call the Dorset sheep a group, rather than a family, as they do not all share ancestry. I will give a quote about each from TF&FSB as we look at where you can buy!

| Where can I buy Dorset yarn and fibre?

You will find you may need to search google with ” ” if you are looking for a specific breed, but here are some handy links!

Dorset Horn 
At Risk on the Rare Breed Survival Trust Watchlist

“The Dorset Horn came into existence hundreds of years ago, though its origins are a mystery. Many historians think that it was developed through crossbreeding Spanish merino with native, horn-bedecked Welsh sheep.” Page 62

Tania, at TJ Frog, is a great go-to for your Dorset needs! She has both Dorset Horn and Dorset Down yarn. The Dorset Horn range is called Shell and is available dyed and undyed and in 100g skeins,  50g cakes or highly-swatchable 20g minis! You can find the Dorset Horn range here – prices start at £3.80 for the minis.

World of Wool have both fibre and DK yarn in Dorset horn – It is around £5.85 for 100g of the yarn and £1.60 for 100g of fibre.

Woolly Mammoth Fibre Co have natural dyed, Dorset Horn, which is currently on sale (at time of writing).

Etsy will definitely be your friend for fibre, hand-dyed and handpun yarn too.

(C) Cgoodwin via creative commons

Poll Dorset

“The Polled Dorsets are far more common than their horned siblings, which are on conservation lists. From a fiber standpoint, the fleeces of these [Poll and Horned] Dorsets are quite similar The wool is very white with an organised crimp pattern in both fibre and lock. It feels somewhat crisp or firm, with a good body that carries over to the yarn.” Page 62

Garthenor have Poll Dorset in 4ply and DK (called Jurrasic). They also have single farm certified organic Poll Dorset, which is a limited WIGIG (when its gone its gone) yarn. These are in dyed shades and comes in a 4ply range (called Stour) and a DK range (called Frome).

Isle Yarns, in Dorset, used to produce 100% Poll Dorset yarns. The range now includes blends, which we cannot use here.  If you have Isle Yarns in stash, please check your label for “100% Poll Dorset”. The only Poll Dorset yarn in the Isle Yarn range now is Stone hips –  Again, please do be quite thorough and check your labels if you want to use Isle Yarns for Poll Dorset Exploration.

From their South Wales farm, The Kennixton Flock have a store on etsy, for their 100% Poll Dorset yarns, in various weights. By the by – these guys have a good twitter account.

For fibre you can also check out 

Dorset Down
Minority breed on the Rare Breed Survival Trust Watchlist

“The Dorset Down was a relative latecomer to the field of Down breeds. In the 1840s, breeders began breeding Southdowns with the local native ewes. […] A nice, versatile fleece, Dorset Down is a medium handling wool. […] A wonderful yarn for making socks, mittens, hats and everyday sweaters. ” Page 72

Again, Tania has Dorset Down, in 100g skeins, 50g cakes and 25g mini skeins. This range is called Chalk and is an aran weight. The dyed colours are different to the Shell/Dorset Horn – all of the colours are inspired by flowers and grasses on her croft in Skye.

Check out the ravelry group for a giveaway from Tania – there are just a few days to enter!

Based in Dorset, Tamarisk Farm have balls of their own Dorset Down, which is undyed and organic. They come in aran and chunky and cost £6.60 each.

If you are looking for Dorset Down fleece, you can try Rampisham Hill Farm – a farm in West Dorset. Their website says they should have DD fleece from May 2018. They also sell washed and carded fleece. Please note that there is no online shop and you will have to email them for an order

© Acabashi; Creative Commons CC-BY-SA 4.0; Source: Wikimedia Commons

At Risk breed on the RBST watchlist

“Named for the Isle of Portland, these sheep are a small and very old breed, thought to be closely related to, and representative of, the ancestral sheep that gave rise to the Dorset Horn. […]  Portland lambs are born with a reddish brown wool and some red, coarse hairs may be found … The lambs’ wool lightens to a warm, clear white called creamy, which is one of the consistent characteristics of the wool.” Page 294

Garthenor have Portland in aran weight (named Dorset Cream)

Farnell Farm, in Kent, have 4ply and DK Portland wool. Prices are £18 per 100g skein. They also sell fleece (min 1kg) and 200g batts of Portland too.

Armscote manor will also come up in your Portland searches. Please be aware that they sell pure Portland, but also sell Portland blends, so do be careful which you get.

Other sources

Don’t forget that the British wool suppliers list on is also a great resource for all wool exploration. These are often farm yarns, with no online shopping facility, there are links to websites and contact details. It really is a woolly goldmine of a resource. Do remember to double check that you are getting 100% of the breed wool and not blended or cross yarn.

| How do I take part in Wool Exploration?

Well, I’m sure by now you know, but each month there will be a specific breed for you to seek out;

  • We must use a yarn that comprises 100% of the chosen breed wool – no blends
  • That yarn can be any weight (lace, 4ply, DK, &c).
  • You can knit or crochet any design into a nice big swatch
  • We will follow the same Wool Exploration guidelines, upload our reviews as a ravelry project.
  • Your notes should also be transferred into our exploration google form, which collates all our info.

You can use dyed or natural wool, hand-spun, commercial spun, or limited edition, small batch – the idea is that we will discover everything we can about that breed wool in a review and I will report these findings each month on the podcast. There will be so much to learn.

We will have a chat thread for each breed and I will preface each new exploration with a blog post – Like this one,  Remember you don’t have to commit to every single month of exploration, just jump in and out as you like!

The Dorset chat thread should be open on Ravelry (I’ve written this ahead of time and will be on holiday mode when it goes out!) The deadline for getting your reviews into our google form is 13th July. 

Given that there are quite a few more breeds this month than usual, I am going to be quite strict with this date. Obviously you are allowed to play catch up and I hope you would still add your review to the google form, but this is the latest date to be included in the podcast episode.

I should also stress that for this month you do not have to choose all four breeds! That is a lot to explore in a month – it is definitely great if you want to, but not mandatory. Pick one and explore it closely, my exploring chums!

Episode 105 – In Fine Fettle

Welcome in to episode 105! Take a pew, grab a WIP and grab a drink!

You can also listen on iTunes, the podcast app, or search your favourite podcatcher, if you prefer!


| Fine Fettle Fibres and Northumbrian Rose Yarn Launch

Hear all about the new Northumbrian Rose Yarn from Judith Goodfellow, of Fine Fettle Fibres. Judith has worked with Lindsay Roberts, The Border Tart; designer Stella Ackroyd and the Border Mill to create a yarn that is 40% Rose fibre, 25% BFL and 35% Alpaca.

The yarn launched on 28th April at Fine Fettle Fibres Studio, in Felton and I was asked Read More

Wool Exploration: Romney

The Teeswater Exploration has been extended til 14th May – but you can definitely get cracking with the Romney!

Firstly apologies for the lateness of this post – I am still struggling with typing, so this has been a WIP for a while!

© Copyright N Chadwick

Wool Exploration is romping along, isn’t it? I can’t believe we are embarking on 6th breed and I am delighted that it is the Romney, sometimes referred to as Romney Marsh sheep or Kent Romney. Having learned to adapt to life on the soggy Romney Marsh, the sheep have adapted to growing quite fine fleeces, despite living on a landscape below sea level. Of course, Romney aren’t just limited to the UK; Romney were imported to the US from the very early 20th century and you will find Romney is Australia and New Zealand, where there has been very successful cross breeding to create the Perendale, Coopworth and Corriedale sheep and also carpet wool breeds, like the Drysdale. (Please remember though that we are looking specifically at 100% Romney).  Read More

Episode 104 – Reasons to be cheerful – books, books, books!

Welcome in to episode 104 – grab a WIP and grab a drink!

I’ve got a return of an old hand/arm issue (cubit/ulnar thing), typing exacerbates/angers it, so this episode’s show notes will be brief and I will add to them when my right hand can type again. (As much as I love doing shownotes, I am not typing them on 1 finger.)

I know some of you only read the notes and reviews here and don’t listen, which is quite very welcome too, but this time you will just have to listen in for the reviews. Thanks for your patience.

↓Listen to the podcast

You can also listen on iTunes, the podcast app, or search your favourite podcatcher, if you prefer!

Reasons to be cheerful – Books!

|The Vintage Shetland Project, by Susan Crawford – £48

Read More

KnitBritish Podcast: Meet The Shepherd/ess

This is a special installment featuring some of the vendors from The Meet The Shepherdess event, at Edinburgh Yarn Festival 2018.

I see that Jo and Mica have released the Festival images this weekend, so perhaps you may wish to listen and browse those incredible images. Relive the weekend a little with me!


A very special wool event with small businesses at its heart 

As soon as I heard about Jo and Mica’s plans to hold an extra event on the Sunday, following EYF, featuring small (some micro) wool businesses, I knew it would be a super special event.

Think about this for a moment; a special event giving a big platform to small wool businesses. People working from their kitchen tables, people who create their yarn business around their farm and family life. Really dedicated and passionate people who are wild about wool and bringing an authentic and traceable product to your stash. These are exactly the sort of businesses who truly deserve to be in a large marketplace, with a wool-hungry crowd of shoppers, but who do not often have the opportunity to vend at large wool events.  Thank goodness for EYF and – once again – their real insight in knowing what knitter’s want to see… and then utterly smashing those expectations! Read More

Woolly Mucker Review: Foula Wool

Image: Magnus Holbourn

I cannot believe it is almost five years since I interviewed Magnus Holbourn, from Foula Wool, about their new business. I had fallen in love with their natural shades of DK; plumpy, sheepy, delicious!  Do read that interview. It is still one of my most read posts!

I was delighted when Magnus got in touch and asked if we’d like to see their new jumper weight yarn!  The Lovely Fella sent me a message while I was at work, one day – “A soft parcel from Foula has arrived.” I can’t tell you how impatient I was to get home! When I did, the envelope of heavenly squashiness was opened and the loveliest, sheepiest and “warmest” aroma wafted out and so did lovely cakes of Shetland yarn! 

The smell and the squash was an incredible start, but these natural colours – oh my! There are seven natural shades in the range of 25 gram cakes (though you can get 50g and 100g, but I don’t think they are in the full range of shades at the moment) – they range from the darkest, peatiest brown-near-black, gently decelerating through the natural rainbow to browns, fawns, greys and white.  I immediately imagined..surprise, surprise, a hap, using all the shades!

Of course, this wonderful package came right slap bang during the busy EYF prep, but I knew some of our woolly mucker reviewers would be up for the woolly challenge to review this lush Shetland wool.

Via the Woolly Mucker thread on Ravelry, I random drew three reviewers, who were: Patricia, aka NoButterfly; Phoebe, aka Phoebeon and Kim, aka Woolly Magpie. I also sent a wee cake to Lisa, aka ErickaEckles, because she always talks about wool so eloquently on Instagram and I knew she would spread the Foula Wool love to other corners of the internet for us.

I am always keen to know what our reviewers think of yarn, but I was super eager to know what they thought about Foula Wool. Shetland wool from Shetland is so phenomenally important to me.  I’m intensely proud of Shetland wool and of the businesses who sell it or create with it. I think I eagerly anticipated these reviews back most, of all of the one’s we’ve done!

All our reviewers follow the same guidelines to give you a broader view of the yarn. I love that each of them decided to compare this against other Shetland yarns they’ve used. As I always say, breed wool is NOT homogenous, so it is really considerate of our reviewers to add these dimensions to our collective understanding of Shetland wool and show how different they can be. Foula wool is a very special kind of Shetland wool, from sheep from a quite unique gene pool, which has not been modernised, or cross bred; so let’s see what Kim, Patricia and Phoebe discovered about it. Read More


There’s just a few more days to submit your Jacobs reviews via ravelry and the google form, so that I can collate those reviews for episode 104.

Our next breed for exploration is the noble Teeswater.

Their predecessors where thought to have come with the Romans, but we probably have 18th century agriculturist Robert Bakewell to thank for the current breed of Teeswater sheep. We can thank him for much of the modern longwool breeds, as he developed the stockbreeding system to enhance the quality of the sheep. Read More