Meet The Bases: Wilmslow

So in our geographical tour of Cheshire, this week we land in the heart of the footballers’ wives territory, Wilmslow. Wilmslow is just over 10 miles south of Manchester. According to Wikipedia the town “is known for its upmarket lifestyle and its many rich and famous residents. It is one of the most sought-after places to live in the UK after central London, and … has one of the highest proportions of wealthier residents in the North of England. The town has boutique shops, cafes and restaurants, and high-marque car showrooms which cater for those associated with the “Cheshire Set” lifestyle.” Somewhat removed from my life then! However I do like Wilmslow, it has nice shops and one of the first Starbucks in my part of Cheshire! I think today’s featured yarn is a bit special, hence the name.

Wilmslow DK in "Ask"
Wilmslow DK in “Ask”

Wilmslow is one of the first bases I dyed, but it’s been unavailable for a while, so I have held back all my stocks for the launch of the new on-line shop (so excited that it’s finally happening next week!) It’s a DK yarn, made from a blend of Blue Face and Masham and is, of course, 100% British. It was spun in Yorkshire. It’s a 2 ply with a marked twist structure and has been Superwash treated.

Wilmslow DK in "Golden Lights"
Wilmslow DK in “Golden Lights”

Wilmslow is dyed in a range of semi-solids and tonals. You may be able to spot what my inspiration was when I was during these! It comes in 100g skeins, with 240m per skein (approx) and retails for £12 per skein.

Wilmslow DK: This Charming Man
Wilmslow DK: This Charming Man

So what would you make with Wilmslow?

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Meet The Bases: Nether Alderley

This week’s featured yarn is the yarn I have been working with for the longest period of time. It was one of the first two yarn bases I named (sadly the other, a gorgeous DK is no longer available), when I decided that I was going to name the yarn bases after settlements in Cheshire. Nether Alderley is a small village of just over 500 inhabitants (about half the size of Chelford?) and is about half a mile from Alderley Edge, a larger village that lies below a thickly wooded sandstone ridge of the same name, which is one of my favourite spots in the county.

View from Alderley Edge
View from Alderley Edge

Good view, huh? If you ignore the loon trying to get the perfect jump selfie, that is…

Anyway, back to our tour of Cheshire. Nether Alderley is not far from Wilmslow and therefore falls into the “footballer belt”. Both David Beckham and Ole Gunnar Solskjær have lived there. so did Neil Hamilton, when he was MP for Tatton. Moving on…

Nether Alderley in "Coming Through The Rye"
Nether Alderley in “Coming Through The Rye”

Nether Alderley is a 4ply 100% British Blue Faced Leicester that is spun in Yorkshire. It has a high twist that gives super stitch definition, so it looks great when used for lace projects. The high twist also makes it harder wearing than a standard 100% BFL 4ply, so it works for socks too (I know, I know, some of you just much prefer to have nylon in there to guard against the friction!). The yarn is a little plumper than Chelford, with 110g in each skein, yielding approximately 385m.

Nether Alderley in "Cocktails At Dawn"
Nether Alderley in “Cocktails At Dawn”

I have been slowly running down the Nether Alderley in the Etsy shop, as it was the last of the original stock I bought, but never fear, I have a lot dyed up ready for the summer shows and the new website launch. Due to the worldwide rise in the price of Blue Face Leicester, the new stock will be on sale at £14.50.

Go on then, what would you make with a skein of Neither Alderley?

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Meet The Bases: Chelford

Today’s featured base is what I think of as my workhorse yarn base, Chelford.

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It was my first foray into custom spinning. Although Mobberley is a custom spun yarn, as I mentioned in this post it was not originally spun for me. The story behind Chelford sprang from a comment a friend and customer made about some of my yarns: “I love these colours, but I won’t buy sock yarn if it has no nylon in it”. At that time, none of my yarns contained nylon, so I set about trying to find a British wool/nylon mix. I thought it would be straight forward, but either the wool was a blend of unspecified breeds, or it was spun in the UK but sourced from South America… I was determined I wanted the wool to be an identifiable breed (or mix of breeds) and I wanted it to be British – after all, that is the whole premise behind Yarns From The Plain. I returned to several mills but I couldn’t find what I was after, so I ended up clicking on the link on one mill’s website to their “commissioned yarn” section. I discussed my requirements with them and they were prepared to complete a smaller than usual run for me, with them taking 25kg as an experiment and me taking 50kg (Note that “small” is relative – the Big Boys’ idea of a small run is still a lot bigger than a mill like Fibre Harvest, who spin Mobberley for me in Devon. I can order a mere 6kg of a yarn from them if I wish!).

We made the arrangements for a 75% British Blue Faced Leicester/25% nylon blend, spun as a smooth skinny 4ply with approximately 400m per 100g and it was only the day before we green-lit it that I discovered that although the BFL was sourced and prepped in the UK, it would actually be spun in Italy, as the mill preferred the quality of finish.
After some soul-searching and consultation with the Twitterverse (God bless you all!) I decided that it was more important that the wool came from the UK. Even using a big organisation like this, it still took about 4 months for the yarn to arrive and took up a huge amount of space – having never ordered more than 10kg at a time before, I just wasn’t ready for how big the boxes were!

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It took a while before I had time to delve into one of the boxes for some trials, and when I did, I have to say, my heart sank. The yarn felt so crispy as to almost be crunchy (but without the toothy qualities of, say North Ronaldsay) – not at all the soft Blue Faced Leicester I had hoped for. But I should not have despaired. The moment I pulled the first dyelot out of the pot and rinsed it I could feel a difference, and when it dried, it had a lovely handle. I am very pleased with it and it is easily my best selling yarn. It takes dye well and is superwash treated. I have to confess to not yet having finished a swatch to fling into the washing machine to see how well my final citric acid simmer holds the dye, but that is on my evergrowing list of jobs to do! I have used pale colours to knit baby clothes and I love weaving scarves with it too:

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This is woven with the two outer greys in the photo earlier in this post. I love it, and luckily so does my husband, the intended recipient!

For those interested, Chelford is a small village about halfway between the towns of Knutsford and Macclesfield, with a weekly livestock market.

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A Revolution in Online Yarn Shopping?

I am delighted to share with you the news that today, a brand new online yarn shop has opened, called BritYarn.

Brit Yarn

It has been set up by Isla Davison, who I have “known” through Twitter for a long time and who shares many of the same passions for British Wool as I do. BritYarn is a company that does exactly what it says on the tin – selling British yarns and pattern support. On the website, Isla explains the ideas and driving force behind the formation of BritYarn:

“Friends and family suggested I open a wool shop knowing my passion for wool and knitting. Having shrugged off their suggestions, I never imagined myself running a business but life changing circumstances presented life changing opportunities and, in late 2014, the idea of BritYarn started to develop.

I have been knitting for several years and have become really interested in where the wool or fibre comes from. However, as a knitter, I was becoming increasing frustrated when it was either not clear where the wool originated from or was simply labelled as manufactured in Britain. This desire to understand the provenance of my wool has developed into BritYarn and our woolly principles.”

I love the idea of BritYarn’s Woolly Principles, and many of them chime with the ideas and vision I had when I set up Yarns From The Plain. I wanted to celebrate and support the British Wool Industry through sourcing the fibre and where possible through all stages of processing (not always easy!)

BritYarn’s Woolly Principles

  • First and foremost, BritYarn must love it if we’re going to stock it. We believe in using materials and patterns we love, to create beautiful, long-lasting items.
  • BritYarn embraces provenance. It’s hugely important to us to know, as far as possible, the origins of our products and to share these details with our customers. BritYarn will clearly outline where the wool was spun and dyed; some wool may be spun or dyed outside of Britain, and if it is, we’ll tell you. It’s all about being able to trace the journey of the product and make informed choices.
  • BritYarn’s definition of “British” includes British Overseas Territories (e.g. The Falkland Islands). 
  • BritYarn celebrates the British Wool industry. Wool content in a yarn must be 100% British grown.  Any natural fibres (where present) in a blend, e.g. linen, will comprise a maximum of 50% of the total content.  Synthetic material (where present) in a blend, e.g. nylon will comprise a maximum of 25% of the total content.
  • BritYarn supports British businesses. Wool, patterns and accessories as well as business support will be sourced exclusively from British suppliers. We believe in shopping local and helping to sustain British businesses.

 

A set of principles to be proud of there I am sure you will agree, and as you will have realised, close to my heart and vision for Yarns From The Plain.

With that in mind, I am delighted to say that I have dyed a set of exclusive colourways on my gorgeous Mobberley 4ply base, just for BritYarn. Isla and I thought it would be fun to link the colours to British landmarks, so we had a fine old time bouncing possible ideas around. I really wanted to capture a combination of both the natural and industrial beauty of Britain (no, really, some of our industrial heritage is just stunning!), plus we thought it would be fun to have a colourway inspired by the BritYarn logo. I took individual photos of the colourways, but this photo is one Isla took, showing all 6 colours together.

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From the top left, going clockwise, we have Blackpool Illuminations, (variegated), Bridge over the Forth (semi-solid russett), Usk Valley (semi-solid green), Heather on The Moors (tonal purples), BritYarn (variegated) and Ironbridge (tonal greys).

Remember, these colourways will only ever be available from BritYarn, so if you want them, you need to nip over there quickly. In fact, several had sold before 7 this morning!

 

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Meet The Bases: Mobberley

So I thought that it was about time I introduced you to my woolly babies! I have a number of different yarn bases, all using British wool, although not all bases are currently available in the shop. The first base I want to introduce you to is Mobberley.

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A range of Mobberley 4 ply

Now, many of my local customers have realised, but my wider customer base may not have done, that my yarn bases are all named after towns and villages in Cheshire (well, all except one but that’s for another post!). Mobberley is a village between Wilmslow and Knutsford, close to Manchester Airport. I love little nuggets of useless information and I was delighted to be reminded that Mobberley was the home of George Mallory, the mountaineer.

The base is custom-spun in Devon, from 70% Exmoor Blueface and 30% British Alpaca. It was originally spun for LaalBear, but I bought her undyed stock and the mill were happy to continue to spin the blend for me. However, this does mean that it isn’t a yarn I can restock from a warehouse, so currently only have an aranweight in stock in the Etsy shop. Don’t worry, I do have some waiting for my new shop launch, which should be very soon!

The Exmoor Blueface is local to the mill in Devon and is a cross between the Exmoor Horn and Blue Faced Leicester. The Exmoor Horn contributes hard wearing attributes, whilst the Blue Faced Leicester gives softness. Blending with the British Alpaca gives the finished a halo typical of alpaca blends and the overall yarn is soft to handle.

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Bridge Over The Forth, an exclusive colourway for BritYarn

It comes in three weights; 4 ply, DK and Aran weight. Each skein weighs 100g , with 4ply being 333m, DK being 250m and Aran being 176m per 100g. In terms of construction, the 4ply weight is (confusingly) made up of 3 plies, as is the Aran weight, which leads to a plump yarn with good squish factor. The DK weight is constructed from 4 plies and is a firmer yarn, but no less soft.

Mobberley Aran in Bewitched
Mobberley Aran in Bewitched

I absolutely love this yarn and think it is great for all sorts of accessories. The fine halo gives a nice finish, and I love using it as weft in weaving. It makes cosy socks, with some stating that the Exmoor Blueface makes it hardwearing enough for boot socks, but I haven’t made a pair yet so cannot vouch for that. A fine lace pattern would be softened by the alpaca halo, which gives the finished piece charm. I find it a very warm yarn, due to the loft, particularly in the 4ply.

Mobberley 4ply for BritYarn
Mobberley 4ply for BritYarn

It takes colour beautifully, but due to the alpaca content, perhaps more softly than other bases. I love dyeing it and wish I had Hermione’s time turner so I could knit all the things I want to in this yarn!

So what would you knit in Mobberley?

 

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Fluph

I am SO cross, it’s untrue! Why? Because in all the fun of yesterday, all I took was one photo, of the yarn set up in the gorgeousness that is fluph. (look at those sheep! Fluph sells those. How gorgeous!)

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The yarn on display at fluph

Before you think it looks a bit skimpy, can I say that this was 4 hours into a 6 hour session, so that’s why the blue looks a bit depleted. Guess what colour I’ll be dyeing next week?

We spread the fibre out on every available surface, but I didn’t take a snap of that. Luckily, one of the lovely customers,  (who would you believe I have met before, nearly five years ago) had her camera. Her instagram feed is here.

My first impressions of fluph were that is was as cosy as it looks on Leona’s instagram feed (What can I say? I’ve been following her for a while. I’m easily hooked by beautiful spaniels). I think it is everything a yarn shop should be. Lots of light. Interesting yarns. Some great workhorses (I LOVE Drops Fabel sockyarn). Sofas. A seemingly endless supply of tea and coffee. A welcoming atmosphere. I have not felt this welcomed and comfortable in a yarn shop since Fibre and Clay closed in Knutsford. If you are ever in Dundee, I heartily recommend this place. I am of course biased, because I have visited none of the other yarn shops in Dundee but to be honest, with the lovely atmosphere, squishy sofas, regular knit night and the lovely Leona, I’m not sure I want to go anywhere else.

Thank you LJ and thank you to all your lovely customers. I would love to come back again!

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Yarns From The Plain Trunk Show

I’ve been taking the yarn part of the shop out and about this year, mainly to knitting groups or knitting retreats, and there’s been a really good response. I also sell at meetings of the Cheshire Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers. But there is major excitement here at YFTP HQ because it is a week (eek!) until YFTP goes on the road proper, to the gorgeous looking fluph in Dundee. Look what Leona created from my logo:
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I’m so in awe! And soooooo looking forward to it. If you are in the Dundee area, please drop in!

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Yes, I am contrary!

 

You remember last time, I showed you some possible colour combinations for the Old Shale part of my Hap shawl? I made a decision! I went for this combination:imageYes, I know it wasn’t part of the original choice, but it works better , I think.

 

 

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Decisions, Decisions…

I’m currently working on my Hansel Hap by Gudrun Johnson for the Knit British Hap-along and although I’m still working on the centre square, my thoughts have been turning to the striped Old Shale pattern around the edge. Out of the many colours of the Wildboardclough I dyed, which four should I use to complete this part?

I decided to try some yarn wraps in the correct proportions, to help out.

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I thought it would help. But I don’t think it has! There only thing I can be sure of, is I don’t really like the first one. Ho hum?

What do you think?

 

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A Sneak Peek!

I’m planning on casting on a Hansel Hap by Shetland Trader to join in the Knit British Hap-a-long that starts tomorrow. I was originally going to use some Rowan Scottish Tweed that has been in my stash for a v.e.r.y. long time, but it is only in 3 colours and there is only enough for a Half Hansel.

What to do?

Well, doh! I could dye some yarn…

I have a new base, a toothsome North Ronaldsay 2ply, 550m for 100g, so I decided to have a play yesterday. Seems I went a little mad…

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Oops! This yarn will be ideal for colourwork where you need grippy yarn. It is rustic and ideal for out wear like the Hansel Hap. I am so looking forward to winding up a cornucopia of mini skeins and launching them in a few weeks. Keep a look out!

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