Wovember: Small Batch Yarn

20151007_125641This week I wanted to write about the popularity of small batch wools. Like Gin, the profile  of small scale wool producers, who process and market their own product is on the increase. I’ve been really surprised this year by how many yarn bloggers and podcasters are featuring this “new phenomenon”. Small scale single breed production is not new, but discovering and accessing these yarns is certainly becoming easier and there is a growing market for wool with a local, traceable provenance.

In Cumbria we’re lucky to have the Wool Clip (which has been around since 2001), a co-operative of fibre producers, makers and artists, many of whom raise and process their own wool. One of my favourites is Ruth Strong’s Herdwick wool, a real bargain and it’s fabulous quality. If the Wool Clip name sounds familiar to you, it may be because they are the organisers of Woolfest.. But there are other small scale co-operatives and sources of small batch, local production wools if you know where to look. I’ve written before about the amazing quality and colours of Lily Warne wool, which I first discovered when the wool was featured in Country Living magazine. It’s definitely up there among my favourites. The felted wool bag, made a couple of years ago is still in daily use and is a real conversation piece. I love being able to tell people where the wool grew and who I bought it from.

lily warne bagFor a long time, the only way to discover local, single breed wools was to befriend your local Guild of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers or to  visit local fairs. These days there are some brilliant online resources. My current favourite is the National Sheep Association, where you can find links to all the British Sheep Breed societies. Some, like the Jacob Sheep Society have a fabulous list of producers which make it very easy to track down  wool from specific breeds.

Malham Mule collarI must admit, a lot of the single breed wool I buy sits in a cupboard, part of a growing collection of mementoes from summer holidays, trips to woolly events and gifts from friends. But at Yarndale  this year I was thrilled to discover Malham Mule, a yarn which is raised and processed in Yorkshire. This “own brand yarn” is a new venture for Jane Ellison of Purl and Jane in Skipton. I couldn’t resist trying it out and I have tried knitting and crocheting with this plump, superchunky wool and I love it. I love it even more because I’ve watched the sheep graze, and knowing the story of how it came from field to shop is fascinating. You can read more about Malham Mule on Jane Ellison’s website.

The collar (Pictured above) took two hanks of Malham Mule wool and paired with some real leather straps it’s proper draught excluder. Sadly the weather has been too mild to road test it properly, but I’m off to Malham at the end of this month and I’m hoping for some “proper” weather to test it out. I may even get around to typing up the pattern for you all!

All through November I’m posting about real wool in support of the “Wovember” campaign and I’m pleased to say lots of other knitwear designers are getting involved this year too. Sarah Hazell has launched a Knitalong over on her blog featuring Wendy Ramsdale, which I wrote about in my last Wovember post – see photo below for a reminder of the lovely scarf (and lovelier model). Go and take a look at Sarah’s design and maybe join in?

wendy ramsdale scarf

 

 

 

New Pattern: Ramblers Scarf

20151012_102844Here’s my latest accessory. Knitted in fabulous Ramsdale from Wendy. I fell in love with this wool for several reasons, first of all the colours are beautiful, it has a soft haze that you lose with superwash wools and it’s incredibly soft. The yarn is British – “born, bred and made in Yorkshire” – so it appeals to my preference for British wool. Finally, the price –  it retails around £3.69 a ball – which makes it exceptionally good value.

Each shade is named after a Yorkshire village or town, most of which Mr T and I have visited on our annual trips to North Yorkshire. Settle, Malham and  Richmond all feature in the collection, but my favourite is Malton, a rich plum which I adore.

At first, I thought about making a striped blanket. But knowing how quickly my enthusiasm for crochet blankets wanes, I decided on a simple scarf and granny square motifs seemed to fit the bill. Each motif is made from two rounds, following the traditional granny square, then joined “as you go” using a simple slip stitch.

20151012_114727Nine balls may seem a little excessive, but there are plenty of “leftovers”,  allowing you to make a hat or wrist warmers to match. To be honest, at just under £30 (I used a discount voucher) I think it’s great value. My scarf goes with everything and will last for years. This is going to be my “wear it every day” accessory this winter! Wendy Ramsdale is widely available, so do look out for it, plenty of online stores stock it and I have seen it several “bricks and mortar” yarn stores too.

If you can make a granny square, you’ll find this pattern very easy. And, if you’re new to “joining as you go” I have included a few photos to illustrate the method – not a full tutorial – that would take far too long and ultimately affect the price. Like many granny square projects, this would also make a great “stashbuster”, simply choose a selection of colours from your stash and follow the instructions. The circles embellishments are a bit of whimsy, you could easily add a traditional fringe if you prefer. Or, why not live dangerously and sew the two short ends together to make an “eternity” cowl instead!

With so many good things in its favour what are you waiting for – at the bargain price of £1.50 there is no excuse!  You can buy the pattern for this simple scarf from my Love Knitting designer page  or from Ravelry If you have tried Wendy Ramsdale I would love to know what you think.

Happy crochet x

 

 

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