Sunday, 2 September 2012

The Origin of Sheep

I've got a question.

Do you know where your wool comes from?

Think about your current or last yarn project. Where did the wool or felt come from?

My current projects (I normally have 3 on the go at once) Hobbycraft, Samuel Taylors & Purple Lynda.

Let's take one of mine, Anchor Freccia Cotton Thread. I bought this from Purple Lynda, who runs an excellent online crochet supply store from Inverness.
It's an Anchor product and Anchor is owned by Coats, a worldwide company. Not much to track from the website, but a small note on the label tells me it was Made in Hungary. And there my search ends.

So my little ball of wool, came from Hungary, to Scotland, To Inverness, To Leeds.

Now, how far back can you go?

Most of the time I have no idea where the wool came from, if it's british wool, great, but the truth is it's often the cost of the wool that makes my wool choice for me.

Yesterday I finally came face to face with April. I was so happy, after months of talking about her and asking after her I finally met her. I wanted to brush her up in my arms and hug her, but settled on a few scratches behind her ear.

April is a sheep, a Shetland sheep from the Highfield flock in North Yorkshire. Owned by Cluny Chapman.

You should check out the website that includes a monthly blog written by one of the sheep, it's a must read. I cried when the original blogger passed away and cheered at the first mention of April (coming 5th in the large ewe lamb class at the rare breeds show) then cried again when I read April had twins this year (photo of April and her twins on the right).

I first met Cluny at the monthly Briggate farmers market in Leeds. She has a stall a few stalls down from me. We chatted wool, then her wool, then I found out that not only does she spin her own yarn - the first person I've ever met who does spin yarn - but she knows the names of the sheep the yarn comes from. But of course she does, the sheep are hers after all.

So, I have a few balls of wool in my stash boxes that I can trace all the way back to the actual sheep it came from.

April grows the fleece - Cluny sheers April - Cluny's mum cards the fleece - Cluny spins the yarn - I buy the yarn. All within a 50 mile radius.

There's just something magical about knowing the whole story of wool, even if I can't replace my whole stash with magical wool. Knowing that this coming winter my hat, gloves and scarf can be traced back to April in York will make slipping on ice a little bit easier to cope with.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

British Wool Weekend 2012

So, I'm home again after a lovely day in Harrogte at the British Wool Weekend.

It was held at the Yorkshire Showground, a huge exhibition area that's mostly fields. I don't have a car so I caught the bus to Harrogate and then a second bus to the grounds. The bus drops you off on the main road and it's a long, long walk to the actual building, but a nice walk.

£8 to get in, with some extra speakers on through the day. If you're going tomorrow, don't bother buying the programme. I bought one expecting it to list the extra events, but it is just a list of exhibitors and some adverts. In fact, the door security was so lacking I even wondered if it was worth buying a ticket, since no one checked whether anyone walking straight in had one! However, I did pay, since it's important to support British wool whenever possible.

I just want to give some quick notes on the day and go further into them in later posts (I have a new found determination to blog a LOT more).

What was big this year was big needles and hooks, and I mean BIG!

I appologise for the lighting on the photo, for some reason my camera was playing up and a lot of my photos are too messed up to show.

Do you see the log thingie on the right? That's the knitting needle. Yep, Huge. I think they're using strips of blankets as yarn.

This is The Big Knit fundraising event for Breakthrough Breast Cancer. More information is found here The Big Knit.

For a small donation you too, can do a few stitches on the worlds largest knitting needles.

Big knitting was everywhere. In some way I can see the benefit, a row of stitches is an inch in length, so people like me that don't like to make large projects due to the time. But I also see many downsides for me. I noticed the first stall selling a ball of ultra size wool for £30 a ball, yep, that price was right. So not a cheap knit. Also the crochet hooks were around 4-5 feet in length, not something you can slip into your handbag.

I seriously considered buying a hook, but only as a display on the stall.

The circular needles on the left seem to be wooden handles on a bit of hose pipe. For £20 I think someone's having a laugh.

I finally met April. I don't know if I've told you about her yet, so I won't say anything about her now, another day though.

Future blogs I plan from today include Angora rabbits, woolen duvets, football rattle spinning, luchets and finger looms, Purists and more about April.