I wanted to do something special to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Ripples Crafts. And I thought what better way to celebrate such a significant event than to create a new yarn. I wanted to design a yarn that captured all the features that I love as well as creating something distinctively different from anything in my current range. As someone who has difficulty with some animal fibres against my skin I wanted something that I could wear – selfish, I know, but it was important to me.
I contacted Sue Blacker of The Natural Fibre Company to discuss my ideas and options, and it was good to have her confirm my thoughts about the choices I was making for my yarn. Sue has years of experience of working with different fibres, and once we agreed on exactly what I wanted I felt confident that the yarn was going to be just so.
That was six months ago. In that time Sue has been sourcing the particular fibre needed for my yarn, and it has been carded, spun, washed, and hanked, and last weekend at Edinburgh Yarn Festival I was presented with the very first hank of my unique yarn – Cochrane. I couldn’t wait to get it home, divide up into tiny little test hanks, and dye away to my heart’s content while I waited for the main shipment of yarn to arrive at the dye shed.
I only had 9 tiny hanks to test dye, but I was very happy that I’d achieved the “look” that I wanted with the yarn. I wanted something that had a slightly heathered look to it once it had been dyed, and I have managed to get that.
So what are the fibres in this yarn? Well, I won’t divulge the full and complete breakdown of fibre percentages as I want to preserve my intellectual property, but it is a mix of 2 fibres which offer the qualities I wanted. First of all, Bluefaced Leicester. This breed has long been a favourite of mine, as reflected in my current range of yarns. The main reason for including this breed in Cochrane was because of its hardiness, but also the sheen which BFL presents. Secondly I opted for a little known breed of sheep, although it is becoming better known thanks to the work done by mills such as The Natural Fibre Company and Uist Wool Mill. It is the Bowmont, also known by some as Scottish Merino. I grew up in a country where the Merino was the main breed of sheep, and it is a wool which I love, but it is not a breed which is suited to the wet UK climate. The Bowmont was a breed developed and bred in the 1980’s by the Macauley Land Use Research Institute as a suitable breed for Scottish Hill farmers. (You can read a bit about it here on the archived page). It is a mix of Saxon Merino and Shetland, and was bred to be hardy enough for the damp climate, but with a good yield of meat and wool. Sadly it wasn’t the success that the Institute had hoped for in that the hill farmers did not take the breed to their hearts. And now only a handful of flocks still exist. But the fleece is beautiful. The resulting yarn is slightly nuppy, but has that buttery softness that I was looking for due to the low micron count of the fibre. For those interested in such things the micron count for the Bowmont fibre used in Cochrane is approximately 18. Mixed with the BFL to give it hardiness, I am over the moon with the resulting base. All the fibre has been sourced from sustainable flocks in the UK, and the yarn has been woollen spun as opposed to all my other yarns in the range which are worsted spun – I did say I wanted something distinctively different. The feel of the yarn is one of bounce and airiness, and the stitch definition on the test piece I’m working on is good. The yarn has a stickiness to it that would make it suitable for steeking, for those of you who would want to take a pair of scissors to your knitting.
The Natural Fibre Company has spun it to a 4ply weight, and it comes in 100g hanks.
So! There you have it. A unique yarn to celebrate 10 years. While I was sitting knitting with it last week it suddenly struck me that I’d designed a yarn and was working with a yarn that nobody had ever knitted with before. And what is more – I’m so very pleased with the results. The full stock has now arrived from the mill and dyeing has commenced.
Given the very special and rare nature of the yarn, availability will be limited – I only have 17.5kg of this base, and once it is gone then there will be no more until I can slot into the spinning schedule again for more. I will be sending out a newsletter to subscribers as soon as the first batch is about to go into the shop, so if you’re not signed up for the newsletter here is how to do it, and so be among the first to know when it becomes available to buy.
And the name “Cochrane”? That is in recognition of my amazing Mum.