Best of British Yarns

Thanks so much for all feedback on yesterday’s post about the WI collaboration with Hobbycraft. I’m ploughing through the emails, and will respond to everyone. You can read some of the responses on my twitter feed and in the comments on yesterday’s post.

In the interests of fairness, tomorrow I’ll be sharing some of my favourite designs made using man made fibres, but today I’m sharing a few of my  makes which show off some fabulous British wool and wool blends.

Just for the record, my interpretation of “British” wool means that the fleece grew on the back of a British sheep and that will always be my first choice for personal projects. However, there are some fabulous independent spinners and dyers doing amazing stuff with natural fibres and I shall definitely write about those in the future.

west yoks spinners 4 plyFirst up is this “work in progress”, a plain sock which is on the needles at the moment. I like my socks plain, simple and  a perfect fit in a good quality yarn. This Signature 4 ply from West Yorkshire Spinners definitely fits the bill and priced at £7.20 for 400m (a 100g ball) it compare favourably with other commercial sock yarns. I’ve got a bit of a WYS “thing” going at the moment, you may recall the beautiful mohair wrap I made at Easter. They do a great range of DK and Aran weights and are reasonably priced. The Aire Valley DK washes particularly well and is great for kids wear.

Willow Shawl, pattern and photo Credit Vicki Magnus, full details on Ravelry (click on the photo to be redirected to Ravelry))

A long time favourite dyer of mine is Vicki Magnus of Eden Cottage Yarns,lots of my personal projects are made in her gorgeous yarns. Among her British yarns is the new MIlburn 4 ply. ( a blend of Blue Faced Leicester and silk),  I can’t wait to treat myself to a skein. Vicki kindly gave permission to use the photo above. You can find the pattern details and download  on her Ravelry page.

wrist warmers

It’s always a bonus when an editor supports my choice for British yarn and these gorgeous wrist warmers in two beautiful shades of New Lanark DK first appeared in Love Crochet last year. This yarn definitely falls into the “super value” category and comes in a great range of colours. If you’re not familiar with New Lanark, do visit the website and drool over the amazing shades. A visit is highly recommended too!

Of course, I’m lucky to have such great editors, Knit Now for example have done great stuff in supporting and promoting British yarns  (if you’re looking for more British yarn suppliers, take a look at the current issue which has plenty of adverts for British yarn suppliers).

knit now

One of my all time favourite shoots has to be this simple ear warmer from Inside Crochet. Made using two balls of Erika Knight’s British Blue yarn it is just adorable and really shows off the subtle shades and soft yarn Erika Knight  has become known  for. Ideal for baby knits and for colour work, the 25g balls are the perfect size for little treats and fair isle projects.

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Photo Credit: Britt Spring for Inside Crochet (c) Tailormade Publishing

I’m often drawn to the colour and texture of a yarn and that often influences a design. The two shades of British Blue I used here are “Milk Chocolate” and “Steve”, other yarns in the range include “Mouse” and “Iced Gem” and are equally beautiful.

LilyWarneWool

Another great value and beautiful yarn which I recently discovered comes from Devon. Lily Warne wools  (cheaper, by the way,  than the Hobbycraft Heritage yarn I talked about yesterday). Sold   in DK and Aran weights the colour range can best be described as “scrumptious”. I’ve had great fun playing with different colour ways and I’ll have a project and pattern to share soon. Do take a look at Paula’s website, you can buy yarn and patterns direct or check out the list of stockists.

Photo Credit Lily Warne Wools. (Click on the photo to visit the website)

I just adore this photo and the super cute lambs steal the show!

Finally, I can’t write a post on British wool with a word for the producers. The farmers, shepherds, shearers and companies that provide us with one of the most beautiful, versatile and durable of fibres. Without healthy, happy sheep we wouldn’t have such beautiful yarns. So, thank you to everyone out on the fells at this time of year. If you’re interested to know more about the life of a shepherdess, I can throughly recommend you take a look at Alison O’Neill’s website. The neighbour of a friend of mine, she writes and records her life in the Howgills with humour and honesty.

Alison fleeces

Photo Kindly provided by Mike Glover to promote Kendal Wool Gathering. Click on the photo to visit the website.

I could write all morning about the gorgeous yarns, friendly suppliers and producers, but there’s really no substitute for going out and discovering British yarns for yourself. Do feel free to leave a link to your own favourites (or your own shop) in the comments and don’t fret, I know there hasn’t been a single mention for alpaca, cashmere or one of the many other beautiful fibres available. That’s a post for another day!

 

Pattern: Jemima Ear Muffs

Crochet_6Jan14-121I am just in love with these photos the Inside Crochet team have supplied of my latest design. These cute little ear muffs look adorable don’t they? You can find the pattern in issue 50, which is on sale now (I believe issue 51 has just gone to press, so you should still be able to find it in the shops). This design was definitely influenced by the yarn. Erika Knight British Blue wool is so soft and the colours so beautiful it really lends itslef to children’s projects. Also, becuase it comes in 25g balls, you can afford to splash out on a luxury yarn for your precious little ones!

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These ear muffs take 2 balls (I used Milk Chocolate and Steve), you can really play around with the colour combinations in the Erika Knight range and have some fun. The pattern is designed for beginners and only requires a knowledge of double crochet, increasing and decreasing. You could use any doublke knitting yarn for this project, but it really does need to be soft and not scratchy. I use this yarn a lot for baby gifts and the quality and the colours are hard to match (I’m particularly fond of “Mouse” and “Iced Gem”).

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I used a shop bought pair of ear muffs for my base, but the pattern also has instructions for making your own with a hair band and foam.

I’ll be back later this week to show you a more “grown up” version I made, which I really think you’ll like!

Happy making x

Photo credit: All images supplied by Inside Crochet

Free Pattern: The Variable Cowl

variable cowl 2

Sorry, this pattern has been moved (and updated), you can find it here. Also don’t forget to follow my Free Crochet Patterns board on Pinterest to keep up to date with all my latest free paterns.

Holiday Crochet

I had great fun on holiday, exploring the patterns and projects in Erika Knight’s Crochet workshop. This book is full of simple and inspiring home wares and accessories. I loved making these little doilies – based on very traditional designs I remember from the 1970’s – but brought up to date in some modern yarns and fashion colours. I can’t wait to try out some of the projects using yarns from Erika’s own British wool collection.

This is one book that should be on every crochet enthusiast’s bookshelf, I told my knit and natter group about it and they loved it too – look how many copies we had at group last week!Published by Quadrille, it’s widely available and worth every penny.

How British is British Wool?

When I stopped working full time I wrote on my blog that from now on I was “most likely to be found growing veg on my allotment or knitting with British Wool”. I’m proud that I support British and Independent yarn producers, spinners and dyers, but just lately it seems to have got harder, not easier to find wool that is truly British (by which I mean, reared, spun and dyed here in the UK).  Most knitters think the Woolmark is a good indication that they’re buying British, but take a closer look at the label.

In the past week, three knitters have asked me to suggest British Wool suitable for knitting cushions for the Woolsack Project, which aims to send every Paralympian and Olympian competitor home with a hand knitted cushion afer the Olympics in September. I wondered, is a wool carrying the British Wool Trademark good enough to qualify and what about wools that don’t carry the label?

In order  to use the British Wool trademarks a wool product only has to be “at least 50% British”. Yes, that’s right. Up to 50% of the wool in your “British Wool” may have come from abroad or contain non wool fibres. I did discover a new label was launched in 2010 – the Wool Platinum mark for 100% British Wool, but I’ve yet to see it on a ball of wool, at the moment it seems to apply only to wool products. Conversely, just because a wool doesn’t carry the label doesn’t mean it comes from outside the UK. Confused? I was. I’m sure I’m not the only knitter who doesn’t really understand who or what the Wool Mark is for.

I started looking through my stash, seeking out wool I know or think is British.I found some real gems in there (the beauty of stash diving – it reminds you exactly what you have – and what you need to stock up on). I found half a ball of a beautiful British Mohair from Yorkshire. White Rose Mohair is reared in Yorkshire, processed in Bradford and sold as a standard DK weight. I can vouch for the softness and lovely stitch definition, it’s also great value at less than £4.00 per 50g ball (100m).

I also found a few left overs of Troon Tweed, a gorgeous oiled Aran  from Scotland, which I used to make my felted crochet bag and several pairs of Duffers. It’s a great yarn, definitely up there with the best “value” ranges and a proper “workhorse” yarn ideal for jumpers, felting or for tea cosies. There was also a ball of Debbie Bliss Donegal Luxury Tweed Aran (not strictly British as it’s spun in Ireland, but that’s close enough for me!)

I also found some gorgeous Natural Dye Studio yarn  (Dazzle, Blue Faced Leicester) carrying the British Wool Trademark, a hank of Erika Knight’s gorgeous Maxi Wool, a new range which is 100% British Wool,  spun in Yorkshire by Laxtons. There is a great DK weight in the range too and the colours are lovely. Of course there’s plenty of Rowan’s Fine Tweed in this house too, bought for the Dales Blanket. Again, 100% British Wool, processed and packaged  here in the UK.

Now, it’s not just the “big names” who are selling 100% British Wool, you can also shop local and independent buying direct from yarn producers. A few of my favourites are listed below, do click on the links and take a look at some of the yarns on offer.

I’m also  looking forward to getting my hands on some British linen soon. You didn’t know flax grew in the UK? Neither did I, but it turns out to right on my door step, growing in North Manchester as part of a community project called Sow Sew. That really will bring down my “yarn miles”!

In future I won’t just be looking for the British Wool Trademarks, I’ll be thinking about the environmental impact of my wool. Where was my wool grown, combed, scoured and spun, dyed and packaged.(You’d be amazed how much British Wool finds its way to Europe to be processed and transported back to be sold here). And, just because an independent supplier isn’t using the Woolmark label I won’t assume their wool isn’t British.

Finally, if you’re interest in the journey from sheep to skein, you might like to read this blog post by Kate Davies.

Independent Spinners and Dyers and Retailers Using British Yarns:

Blacker Yarns

New Lanark

Little Houndales

June Onigbanjo

Wensleydale Long Wool Sheep Shop

Texere yarns

Laxtons

Oh – and  don’t forget the British Sheep Breed Societies -the Jacob Sheep Society is just one of many that has been very helpful to me in sourcing British Wool.

If you have time  take a look at Wovember’s Hall of Shame for wool products that aren’t wool at all :(

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