Archives For Hole & Sons Wool

As we continue to go deeper into the theme of creativity this month, I’ve made a point of celebrating the yarns I’ve been working with on my recent projects. Whether we’re talking about a painter and their paints, a sculptor and their clay, a sewist and their fabric, or a knitter with their wool, the role that materials play in any creative person’s work is hard to overstate. The nature of your material, its qualities, character, and even personality can absolutely transform the way you create. Materials can provide the first seeds of inspiration for your work, and they can surprise you, delight you, and even take you to new heights of craftsmanship and originality. I’ve certainly found this to be the case with the wonderful yarns I used for all of my Whispering Island shawl samples.  Knowing the story behind the yarn has added so much to my creative process. I’m excited to share this post by Sonja from Blacker Yarns on how the wool that goes through their mill is farmed, sourced, and spun into some of the finest yarn available today. Enjoy!

– Helen 

Woven Shetland throws in a wonderful array of natural shades

Blacker Yarns is quite a special yarn company because it is one of the only British yarn companies to come with its very own mill attached – The Natural Fibre Company.  NFC not only process Blacker Yarns, they also work with farmers and small business owners to create unique and special yarn, spinning fibre and woolly delights.  Our mill has a small minimum quantity, which is ideal for farmers like Ben Hole of Hole & Sons who are looking to do something more with their fibre.  I know Ben was keen to emphasise the wonderful story behind his yarn and we were happy to help him.

Shetland Sheep 2

At Blacker Yarns, we have a very strong relationship with our suppliers. We try to find the best quality fibre available.  We support British farming by paying fair prices for the best fleece and building long term relationships with these suppliers.  We care about what we do – by using traditional low impact methods to produce our yarns, we are able to do our bit for the environment, rare breed preservation and sustain our local communities.

I am so thrilled by the growing awareness of buying local. We’re entering such an exciting phase in the fibre industry.  Increasingly knitters are starting to ask questions about the stories behind their yarn. This awareness is perfect for us!  We love inviting people to visit the mill (see the website for this year’s dates) and inviting them to explore our production process.  As a knitter myself, I think that sense of connection with real animals – and the people who raise them – can do so much to enrich one’s crafting experience.

Some of the yarn we produce, like our Blacker Swan Merino, is farm assured which means the fibre comes from one particular farm.  Other yarns, like the Shetland used for Helen’s gorgeous shawl, come from a number of small farms up and down the UK.  We record where the fibre for each individual batch comes from, so we are often able to let people know the source of their fibre if they email us directly.  This is something rather unique and only possible when buying direct from farmers. Currently most of our Shetland yarn comes from farms in Wiltshire and Somerset.Shetland Sheep

Shetland fleece is matt and one of the finest of all British breed wools.  These hardy little sheep date back to the 8th century and the Viking conquest. Their fleeces come in a vast array of natural shades the names of which can be found in Norsk nomenclature.  These magical words like ‘Katmogit’, ‘Moorit’ and ‘Gulmogit’ are all centuries old and filled with a wonderful romance.

Shetland DK shades

The north of Scotland has always had a difficult climate and the people living there would have needed warm garments to protect themselves.  So it is likely that Shetland sheep have always been bred with a mind to the quality of their fibre.  From the 17th century onwards, Shetland islanders’ have created high quality knitted goods for export across Europe and the world. For this reason the breed has a few distinctive qualities. Shetland sheep come in a vast array of natural shades from white, through to fawn, chocolate brown and black.  These shades can be blended or dyed and then used to knit those distinctive Fair-Isle patterns we all know and love. The fibre also works wonderfully for lace work, creating a light and airy fabric which holds its block wonderfully. Shetland yarn will felt well and is highly resistant to the tendency that some softer fibres have to pill.

Our Shetland yarn is available in both 4-ply and DK. We select the finest fleeces we can find, so this breed is a wonderful place to start if you’re thinking of delving into breed specific yarns. We offer a wide variety of natural shades which are complemented by a few dyed shades in the 4-ply only.

Both weights retail at £5.70 a ball, but are currently on sale for £5.20 a ball until 22nd June.

Thank you to Sonja from Blacker Yarns for this guest post.
Play

Curious Handmade Ep 78 Hole & Sons

Photo credit: Benjamin Hole

This is a really fun episode. Ben Hole of Hole & Sons Farm speaks to me about life on the farm on the Isle of Purbeck in beautiful Dorset. We talk about the process of creating their unique, wonderful, and much-coveted yarn, what it’s like to work in a place with so much heritage, and how he has brought the business into the online world with his wildly popular Instagram account. This interview would have been a great fit with April’s yarn theme, but Ben has so many eloquent things to say about creativity and living a life around your passions that it’s perfect for Ben’s love for his animals, the farming life, and photography is infectious and inspiring. It was such a pleasure to bring all that story and to my newest shawl pattern, Whispering Island. I hope you enjoy listening to this conversation as much as I enjoyed having it.

Show Sponsors

Today’s show is sponsored by The Fibre Co, and their lovely Acadia yarn.

 

TheFibreCo_Logo CH

Acadia is named after the oldest American national park east of the Mississippi river, a place of natural beauty where the sea and mountains meet, slopes are densely forested and wild blueberries abound. Acadia National Park is in the state of Maine, The Fibre Co.’s birthplace.  The yarn inspired by this beautiful region has a rustic look and a soft hand. A subtle tweed effect is created by the silk noil that is combined with a heathered base made from fine merino wool and brown baby alpaca. The yarn is a classic DK weight and makes a beautiful textured fabric that is perfect for next to the skin accessories as well as garments.

I’ve just finished knitting a shawl sample with Acadia and it more than lives up to its description. This is very special yarn. You can buy Acadia at our other sponsor’s shop, Meadow Yarns:

Meadow Yarn 

Meadow Yarn is an inviting online retailer selling yarn, needles and notions. It’s a small, family business based in rural Suffolk in the UK. Meadow Yarn was born out of a passion for beautiful yarn and knitting accessories and aims to bring you a range of great products. Yarns stocked include madelinetosh, Eden Cottage Yarn, Hazel Knits and many more.

KAL News:

Still a few weeks left in both of our KALs. It really isn’t too late to hop into either! The Pebble Beach KAL can include FOs that you started or finished before the start date, and the Muse Connection KAL is full of lots of lovely little projects like hats and socks that you can finish up in a week or two – I’m still working on mine!

Show links:

Hole & Sons (lots of in-depth info about the farm and the yarn here which makes for great reading!)

Ben’s Instagram

Ben Hol of Hole and Sons

The artisan mill where Hole & Sons yarn is spun: The Natural Fibre Company

My newest shawl pattern, Whispering Island (which was inspired by Hole & Sons wool) is now available on Ravelry!

The two alternate yarns I used for the samples are:

Blacker Shetland in Fawn

Fibre Co Acadia in Driftwood and Summersweet

The Isle of Purbeck, home to the Hole & Sons farm. It inspired Enid Blyton’s Whispering Island, which inspired the name of my shawl!

Events

I also mention the wonderful Do What You Love course by last week’s guest Beth Kempton. There’s still a week left to register. As I said last week, this course was really powerful for me and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to invest in their creative life.

If you want to hear more from Ben, he’s speaking this weekend at the Blogtacular conference on June 13th in London. I’ll be there, and it should be a lot of fun!

On Saturday 27 June I will be at YAK in Brighton for a trunk show for Pebble Beach shawl. Hope to see some of you there.

Happy Knitting!

Whispering Island Shawl

I’ve been hinting all week about my newest pattern, and I’m so excited to share it with you all that I’ve decided to release it a day earlier than planned.

The pattern is available on Ravelry to buy now.

“My readers will want to know if Whispering Island is real, set in the great blue harbour in the story – and if the little cottage on the hills is there still…Yes, the island is real, and lies in the great harbour, still full of whispering trees. The little cottage on the hills is still there, with its magnificent view and its old well… I have taken them all and put them into this book for you.”

Enid Blyton “Five Have a Mystery to Solve”

Cliffs and caves, coastlines and caravans: Whispering Island is inspired by the landscapes of beautiful Dorset and the fun to be had there by the young at heart. This generously-sized shawl wants to be slung across your shoulders as you wander through fields, explore forgotten ruins, scramble up hillsides, and toast marshmallows over a campfire.

An elongated triangle shawl with a rounded border, Whispering Island is all about texture. Knit in a rustic, rugged DK weight yarn, it features rippling ridges and just a hint of feminine lace in the eyelets along the edge. Although packed with lovely details, this pattern is amazingly easy and fast to knit: the perfect project for a knitter setting off on their first shawl adventure, or for the experienced knitter who wants something simple to finish by the fireside in the long summer evenings of a camping holiday.

This particular project has been such a joy. It was one of those patterns that seems to know exactly what it wants to be from the beginning, and I had a wonderful time bringing it to life. I also had the immense pleasure of working with three marvellous yarns, which each brought their own magic to the design. As any knitter knows, it all begins with the feeling of fibre in your hands.

Whispering Island in Hole & Sons Yarn

The first inspiration for Whispering Island came from my precious stash of Hole & Sons wool. I was lucky to get my hands on some (the last release sold out online in a matter of minutes.) I knew I needed a very special project to make the most of its wonderful qualities, and I felt it was worthy of its own new pattern. I enthuse at length about what makes this yarn so miraculous in tomorrow’s podcast, where I interview Benjamin Hole about his farm, process, and philosophy.

For the original Whispering Island, I used Hole & Sons Pure Wool in the “Fog” colour. [100% Dorset Poll Pure Wool, 110m/119yds per ball], 6 x 50g balls.

Because there will be a bit of a wait before more Hole & Sons yarn is available for purchase, I also wanted to knit this shawl in some other lovely yarns which allow for more instant gratification.

Whispering Island in Blacker Shetland Yarn

Blacker Yarns Shetland DK shares a lot of qualities with the Hole & Sons wool. Soft, springy, and heathered, it is actually spun in the same mill in Cornwall. It manages to be both rugged and incredibly cuddly, all at the same time, and it’s very smooth on the needles. The colour of the wool, Fawn, is completely natural. It’s an undyed light brown in a creamy caramel shade: it reminds me of Werther’s Originals! [100% Wool, 110m/119yds per ball], 6 x 50g balls]

Whispering Island in Acadia

You’ve probably heard me mention the Fibre Company’s gorgeous Acadia yarn. I was planning to knit a two-colour version of Whispering Island, and I wanted a yarn that would still capture the outdoorsy feeling of my original vision. When I looked at some other shawls knit in Acadia I suddenly knew that this was the perfect yarn for the job. I can’t say enough about what a pleasure this yarn is to work with. The blend of merino, alpaca and silk is wonderfully soft and luxurious with loads of rustic character. [60% Merino wool, 20% Baby alpaca, 20% Silk, 133m/145yds per skein], 4 x 50g skeins, Colour: 2 x Driftwood, 2 x Summersweet]

The result, in all three yarns, is a big, welcoming shawl with lots of heart, an all-season shawl that will be equally at home sheltering you from the soft breezes of a summer evening as it will be cuddling around your neck once the winter winds begin to blow. It’s a surprisingly quick knit, and lots of fun: I’ve made it three times now, and it has never lost its charm.

I really love Whispering Island, and I hope you will too.