Welcome to British Wool Week.
I have to confess that I have started the week working with jute, as I have an order for four bird roosting pouches. I had hoped to link up with a producer of wool twine to create these, but after initial interest, they went very quiet and so I’m working with my tried and tested fibre. However, I have lots of wool from actual sheep in my stash and several orders that require its use. So this week I will be making a start on some socks to barter (I don’t sell socks – they take too long to make, but I do exchange them for other craft work, in this case a leather knitting pouch) and a shy hedgehog (with a British wool tummy), plus I’m about to start experimenting with making an echidna (by special request) that will also include British wool. The socks will have heels and toes made from WYS Aire Valley yarn that’s a mix of British wool plus nylon for strength, but the main part will be pure wool from The Inkpot – a farm in Lincolnshire run by the amazing Hannah T.
Aside from orders, there’s Mr Snails latest socks to make a start on – these will be knitted from hand-dyed Polwarth yarn from Burrow and Soar. And I really want to make a start on a neck-warmer made from the beautiful hand-spun Portland wool made by Hannah F. (Spinning a Yarn).
You may be wondering why I get so excited about using wool – particularly British wool, There are several reasons. First, it’s so versatile – there are so many breeds of sheep, each producing wool with specific characteristics, that it’s possible to find exactly the right wool for a particular job. Next, wool is very forgiving to knit and crochet with – it’s got some give to it, so unlike cotton, variations in tension are not so noticeable, which is a boon for beginners. Then there’s the production of wool. Sheep can be reared on very marginal land – areas where it’s too steep or the soil is too poor to raise crops. With good management flocks of sheep can have a beneficial impact on the environment. Plus, this way we can support local producers and help to ensure our rural communities do not disappear. Then there’s ‘yarn miles’ – things like cotton yarn cannot be produced in the UK, so there’s lots of transportation involved; plus, with cotton, there’s a high water demand (in places where water is often a scarce commodity) and (unless it’s organic) a very heavy pesticide load. And finally, wool, unlike many yarns, is a natural fibre – don’t be fooled into thinking that this is the case with some of the plant-based yarns such as bamboo,or soya – they are man-made fibres that use plant material as a raw product.
So, here’s to wool and all it’s benefits. Happy wool week!