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.

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