When sourced responsibly, wool is an amazing sustainable, nature fibre. It is extremely versatile, hardwearing, 100% natural and biodegradable. Wool is a natural insulator, but it can be really effective in hot weather, too; it is much better than most materials at absorbing and releasing sweat, meaning that it is much more odour-resistant.
Sheep come in a huge variety of different breeds, and each breed’s fleeces have very different and unique properties: from the fineness and feel; to the range of colours; to the crimp or curls. I like to use different breeds to produce different textures and colours, and all of the breeds that I use have fine wool which is soft and wearable against the skin.
Alpaca has very similar properties to wool, but is arguably even softer against the skin. This luxurious fibre is extremely light yet extremely warm, and comes in a beautiful range of fawns, browns, blacks and greys.
Here is where I source it from:
Alpaca is a luxurious, soft fibre which is extremely light and deceptively warm. I source all of my alpaca yarn from UK Alpaca in Devon. Based near Tiverton, UK Alpaca process and spin their own beautiful alpaca yarn using fleece from their own farm and from other small farms across the country.
I use their natural white, fawn and chocolate brown yarns, as well as a few of their dyed shades.
Merino wool is an amazingly fine and soft wool that is extremely warm and wearable. This is my only non-British wool, which is originally ethically sourced from sheep in South America and processed and spun by a family business based in Yorkshire.
Most of my chunky hand knits are made using this yarn, in a range of bold, bright colours as well as a beautiful undyed grey.
I also use undyed British Shetland and Blue-Faced Leicester wool which is processed and spun in the same mill in Yorkshire. Both of these wools are also extremely soft and come in a range of undyed fawns, greys, browns and blacks.
Based in the middle of the beautiful Devon countryside, Little Whitehall Farm breeds the largest flock of Gotland sheep in the UK. The yarn is spun in Cornwall and comes in a beautiful range of natural greys.
Gotland fleece is naturally curled, so as well as the yarn I also use a lot of raw Gotland fleece in my knitting to add both colour and texture.
Raw Fleece and One-Off Yarns
As well as my main yarns, I also use smaller amounts of different British fleeces, hand spun yarns and hand-dyed yarns.
I use a lot of un-combed Alpaca, Shetland and Mohair fleece in my knitting from small local farms, using the natural colours and properties of the raw wool to add depth of colour and texture.
Shetland wool comes in a huge range of natural colours, is very fine and has a natural crimp in the raw fleece. Alpaca fleece is extremely fine and tends to have a longer wave to it. Suri (a rarer breed of alpaca) fleece is much silkier. Mohair has a beautiful silky sheen to it and a defined curl. I weave hand-dyed Mohair into my knitting from a farm in the New Forest.
For my Graduate Collection I spun my own yarn at Coldharbour Mill in Devon. This yarn was spun using my own Shetland fleece and ethically sourced Merino wool from the same family business in Yorkshire. I still use small quantities of this yarn to add splashes of colour to my knitting, and use waste from the spinning process to add colour and texture.