Archives For The Natural Fibre Company

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Today I’m finally getting a chance to talk to the wonderful Sue Blacker from Blacker Yarns, who also runs The Natural Fibre Company, an artisan wool mill which specialises in spinning beautiful yarn from small batches of fleece. It’s a godsend to the local and rare-breeds wool community here in the British Isles, and to knitters everywhere. Sue knows just about everything there is to know about wool, and she took the time to share some of her knowledge with us on the podcast. She’s also the author of Pure Wool: A Knitter’s Guide to Using Single-breed Yarns which is an indispensable reference with some lovely patterns. I was completely fascinated listening to Sue, and I think you will be too. This episode is one for the true wool nerds (which is possibly all of us, I think.)

Show sponsors

Today’s show is sponsored by The Fibre Co, and their wonderful 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.

You can find Acadia at our other sponsor’s shop, Meadow Yarn:

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, the Fibre Co and many more.

Show Links

Thank you so much to everyone who contributed to making the Curious Handmade Krimbo Party such a lovely event. Special thanks to the people and companies who contributed lovely door prizes:

Meadow Yarn
Blacker Yarns

Julie from Suffolk Socks

Mina, host of the excellent Knitting Expat Video Podcast (check out her Etsy shop, Mina Makes)

This week’s Knitvent 2015 pattern is the Ice River Hat, a companion to the Ice River Snood that I released a few weeks ago. It’s super cuddly and super-fast: some of my American knitters even managed to knit one up around the Thanksgiving festivities yesterday! Super impressive.

It was knit in The Fibre Company’s Tundra bulky yarn, which is a super-luxurious bulky yarn made from a blend of alpaca, merino, and silk.

During the interview, Sue mentions The Campaign For Wool

She also says that very soon, in partnership with Wovember and WoolSack a directory of small farm wool producers will be released, so keep your eyes peeled for that!

You can read about the rare breeds like the Soay and Boreray Sheep on the Blacker Yarns Meet The Animals page

Take a virtual tour of The Natural Fibre Company Mill

Check out her great articles for Wovember and on Blacker Yarn’s website for more woolly wisdom from Sue.

Single Breed Swatch Along

That’s everything for this episode! I hope you enjoyed hearing about all the thought, effort and skill that goes into producing the beautiful yarns made at The Natural Fibre Company. If you have any questions (or ideas for new colours for the West Country Tweed yarn!) don’t hesitate to contact myself or Sue.

Have a great week, and happy knitting!

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.