Woolly wonders

Welcome to British Wool Week.

Domed

Jute bird roosting pouch

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).

IMGP6560You 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!

Sock in British Merino (colour 'prize-winning pumpkin') and commercial sock yarn for heel and toe

Sock in British Merino (colour ‘prize-winning pumpkin’ from Burrow and Soar) and commercial sock yarn for heel and toe

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13 Comments

  1. Like you I love using wool and the more local the better! I am learning to spin and using fleeces from a friend’s flock kept a few miles down the road. Plus my friend Michelle from Dyfed Permaculture Farm Trust has the wool from her sheep spun by Curlew Weavers and hand dyes some of it with plants from the farm so that is another source. We were both taught by Susan Martin of Cilgerran who runs wonderful courses in spinning and also dying with natural dyes, one of them in Coppicewood College’s wood using woodland plants.

    Reply
    • I met Michelle on Saturday and meant to ask her about her wool, but completely forgot.
      I have decided not to learn to spin but instead to support all the other wonderful spinners that I keep meeting!

      Reply
  2. Such a shame that wool is not a climate-appropriate fibre for us. However, we do have access to Australian cotton that is grown not too far away. I wholeheartedly agree with supporting local small industry and agribusiness, and I hope that British Wool Week is an outstanding success for your suppliers.

    Reply
  3. Durn it! I just wrote a long comment and for some reason hit the close button instead of the post button …….. my mind is going south!! I’ll see if I can remember all – or any of it …..

    I use NZ wool 🙂 I also love to crochet with both bamboo and cotton too. Is the shy hedgehog with the British wool tummy destined for this part of the world I wonder ……. because I am also considering one of your jute bird houses for my newly revamped uber tiny courtyard garden – where it will be used mainly for decorative purposes as there is scarcely any room for actual birds 🙂

    I think I remembered it all – now let’s see if you receive this comment or if I manage to trash it again….. xoxo

    Reply
  4. I love, love, love the idea of a knitted bird nesting pouch. (But first I should probably plant some trees in our ridiculous and small garden.)

    Reply
  5. LOVE your bird pouch. What a great idea. Our Australian Wool Board did a huge campaign a few years ago about using Aussie wool all year round in all our diverse climates, even the tropics. I went to a couple of their fashion parades and was able to see and feel garments backstage as a friend was organising the whole thing…….some of the wool garments were so fine they were like silk. I think wool is a better fabric for our climate than polyester…..if it’s a fine weave, it’s actually cool in summer, it breathes and absorbs perspiration and is home-grown, which is the message the Wool Board was trying to get across when wool sales slumped in preference to cheap man-made fibres from o/s. Cotton yarn is nice, but so much water is taken from rivers and dams to irrigate it that it brings another set of problems….ok, off my soap box now 🙂 I like the sound of a hedgehog with a woolly tummy.

    Reply
  6. Every time you speak with such passion about British Wool I get the yearning to try it once more – despite it’s side-effects on me 🙂
    I’ll have to see if I can get sample amounts of other natural yarns, to see how they affect me with use, I think – especially if they’re as lovely looking as the ones you keep showing on here 🙂

    Could you give me a bell, Hun (I can’t find my little book with your number in it!) – and I’ve a pressie for you? 🙂

    Reply
  7. I like all the points you make about using wool! It’s such a sensible choice and so rewarding on so many levels!

    Reply
  8. I am intrigued by your comments about bamboo and soy. I know very little about their manufacture. In fact I can’t marry bamboo growing with the deliciously smooth yarn that I use. Can you point me in the direction of some information about it?

    I am using a beautiful merino wool in a tapestry and it is working a treat.

    Reply
  9. I love your bird pouch. What a delightful future home for a feathered friend. I didn’t know that about bamboo yarn. I do know that cotton takes a lot of water though. What’s tricky is that many of us have an allergic reaction to wool. Are there any good alternatives for that?

    Reply

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