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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