British wool

I’ve been very busy over the past couple of weeks, mostly working with British wool. In my efforts to buy local, I have become interested in using Welsh wool, but this is easier said than done. You see, here in Britain, we have the Wool Marketing Board and, except in particular circumstances, all wool producers must channel their wool through this organisation. This means that wool produced locally gets muddled up with wool from other parts of the country. It even means that Falkland Islands wool (which has travelled a very long way around the world) is  part of the picture. The only way that you can guarantee exactly where the wool has come from is to buy yarn made from the fleece of a rare breed, because this is kept separate and can be marketed individually.* The problem with rare breed wool is the expense.

I have just had to accept that, in most cases, the best I can do is to look for ‘British Wool’. I don’t have any issues with this when I am making things for myself, but it is more of a problem when I’m working on a commission. First, I have customers who specify a particular colour. It’s really easy to get any colour in acrylic yarn and this is what customers have often seen – getting a match in pure wool can be more challenging. Second is the price – acrylic yarn is cheap (for your pocket if not for the environment) and this is a consideration in many cases. And third, lots of people actually don’t like wool – because of the texture, the washing or the fact that it’s from an animal (I have lots of vegan friends who won’t use animal fibres).

Chunky slippers made from 'Big Brit Woolyknit' yarn

Chunky slippers made from ‘Big Brit Woolyknit’ yarn

So, I’m trying to strike a balance – using British Wool where possible and trying to minimise the amount of acrylic I do use. Sometimes some man made fibre is essential: the most robust sock yarn that is also soft is generally 75% wool and 25% man made fibre. In many cases, however, wool is a good choice. For example, all the crochet slippers I have made recently have made use of hard-wearing, chunky British wool. Plus I’ve been using lovely New Lanark wool for the masterpiece edging and for the cushion cover for my sister. With the leftovers from the latter I have started making an Attic24 stripy bag (the original is in chunky acrylic, but I am using aran wool and adapting the pattern a bit).

In addition to the wool I choose, I have realised that when I need buttons, I can avoid plastic and buy ones made from natural materials, or at least use up some from my button box so I’m not buying new plastic ones. And, indeed, I was able to find four lovely buttons in my button box for my sister’s cushion cover… in fact they are antique mother of pearl and much nicer than any I could buy. Perhaps it’s just too easy to toddle of and buy new things when, with a little thought and effort, we can discover exactly what we need at home.


* Many thanks to Jude at Red Apple Yarn in Lampeter for explaining all this to me

Leave a comment


  1. It’s getting harder and harder to find wool that is just…wool. Australia produces so much of the stuff, I find it bizarre. But I suppose I have to remind myself that we export the raw material, and it’s mostly processed overseas.


    • I’m not sure whether there has been a resurgence of wool producers in the UK or whether it’s just because I’m looking harder, but things do seem to be improving.


  2. ourworldheritagebe

     /  May 23, 2014

    Other than the wool issue… I just love your pillow cover!
    I also try to use buttons I have at home. I inherited my grandmothers sewing box, and there’s a lot of different buttons in there. Always feels good to include them in a project 🙂


    • Thank you!
      The antique buttons were from a dear friend, sadly she passed away a couple of years ago, but I have several collections from her including buttons and embroidery silk. As you say, it’s always a lovely feeling to include these in new projects.


  3. Glad Jude explained it to you – I was about to!! The other thing you can do of course is watch out on the emerging to find suppliers who create knitting and crocheting wool from their small flocks. Then you’ve the potential to be not only British – but Welsh!
    You might have to get to grips with dyeing then mind you…. life’s never simple…


    • I also chatted to Juliet at Wonderwool… the Ystrad yarn is lovely, but not colourful enough for many projects. I am making a conscious effort not to learn any new skills at the moment because there aren’t enough hours in the day to enjoy the ones I already have so I’m going to leave dyeing to others!!!


  4. Jane Brynonnen

     /  May 24, 2014

    Hi Jan, I expect Juliet will have told you about the OCW project to keep Welsh wool separate as it goes through the processing in Yorkshire and have it come back again labelled Welsh. Of course there are wool miles to take into account, so the next step will be to have it processed in Wales, but that is very expensive at the moment so no help in building the market. Person to talk to is Tony Little,


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