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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. 

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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

Natures Shades Prizes Klaxon

There are less than 2 weeks left for our Natures Shades Along? How did that happen ?

Firstly I need to say, as ever, your enthusiasm for this has rocked my hand-knit socks. I love your love for natural wool. I am not very active in the thread (up to our eyes in packing boxes), but lurking and reading, Your work is amazing and so many great FO’s already.

I already know I am not going to be too present around the end of this KAL (But I will send out reminders of the deadline, etc) but I thought it would be nice to give you a wee carrot on a stick, to help get your WIPs to FOs for the deadline and announce some of the prizes.

| Prizes from Generous Donators!

Louise Spong, from South Downs Yarn, has given us a Chalky Way shawl kit! The shawl is designed by the very talented Orlane Sucche and uses 6 x 30g skeins of the beautiful Ridings Flock southdown, from South Down Yarns. You will get 6 skeins and a code to download the pattern. Thank you so much to Louise and Orlane.

Tune in to the next podcast (out *sometime* soon!) and hear Louise and I talk all about southdown breed and South Downs Yarns. I had a lot of fun chatting with Louise. Read More

Episode 107 – I will never just stick to the knitting.

Today’s episode is mainly about wool and knitting, but the title stands as a good reminder that my views do often extend beyond this!

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


The words sh*t and piss are used a couple of times in this episode, and is *mostly* relation to my landlord mostly! This is in the first few minutes. I will mark this episode as explicit for those who need a sweary trigger warning!

| My views extend beyond craft. The content I decide for my social media and my podcast is up to me. You don’t pay to download episodes and you don’t pay to follow me on social media. My content, like speech and thought, is FREE. We can definitely disagree and we can definitely enter into a discussion, but unrelenting confirmation bias from the echo-chamber is not welcome. Do click unfollow an unsubscribe. As my good chum says – it’s not me, it’s you. Read More

Episode 106 – cosy and tempting!

Back once again for another dose of all things woolly!

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

Woollin Dublin

I went to Woollin on 26th May and what a WONDERFUL event. I was blown away with the awesome team, how they created a great welcoming event and a lovely marketplace. It was lovely to be a punter at a yarn festival and I met so many pals, familiar faces and favourite vendors Read More

#NaturesShades 2018: Shawls

For me, a shawl is often a great canvas to show what your yarn and their shades can do! If you need a few suggestions for our #NaturesShadesAlong then feel free to take some inspiration from here, or dig into my suggestion bundle on Ravelry. If you didn’t need inspiration and now you have an even longer list then sorrynotsorry, ha! Read More

Nature’s Shades-along is coming back!

Back in January 2016, myself and Isla Davison hosted a craft-along which truly celebrated natural shades of undyed glory from our sheepy pals and fibre friends. We wanted to show the value of the amazing range of colours out there, we wanted to challenge the people who thought all British undyed yarn was brown and we wanted people to see how harmonious and also how striking natural shades could be.

Clarification 27-6-18

I’ve had questions as to whether Uist Wool’s Dile, Fras, Contraigh, Reothart, etc can be considered as 2 (or more) natural shades due to their variegated nature of different breeds. As the idea is to play with natural shades then no, you cannot use this on its own.

We will consider these yarns like a variegated colourway. You need to choose at least one other natural shade with these yarns. Thanks for understanding.


This seems to be confusing people.

ANY Variegated yarn (whether natural or for your dyed allowance) equals ONE yarn choice.

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!