Friday, 30 January 2015

Introducing: A Very Special Fabric

So here we are! It's been a very long held dream to commission our own 'locally grown' wool fabric. Wales has an abundance of sheep, and excellent weaving mills still clatter away in scattered valleys.
People often ask if we keep the sheep, spin the wool - you know, a bit like the comedy sketch...write the song, sing the song..

No! We just don't have all that time. Our passion is for turning the yarn and cloth into clothing, and although that also necessitates its own skill in knowing which wool for which purpose - we're happy to leave the actual sheep to the experienced shepherd, and the processing to those who make it their business. After all, utilising each others skills and knowledge is what makes the world go round.

Our starting point was our own brief to ourselves: the wool had to be from Wales, Mid Wales ideally; we wanted to end up with two shades of grey, with enough tonal difference for patterning; one of the greys had to be pale enough for dyeing, should we wish; the fabric had to be suitable for clothing, not blankets, and the economics had to stack up. We realised that to make the job worthwhile, we would probably be looking at a goodly quantity of wool...

Who to go to? We settled on Natural Fibre Company who understood just what was needed and rose to the challenge of sourcing. We consulted at the same time with our weaver, and the fleece and spinning specs were settled. Then....just the waiting! There's a good reason why designers and manufacturers work up to 2 years ahead; especially with wool, it's a seasonal product and lead times need to be worked into the planning. Our first 50 metres arrived mid November - in time for design work to start for this year's pieces.

And what a beautiful fabric that fleece has turned into! The greys are spot on, making a subtle, and ever so slightly 'shimmery', herringbone pattern. We chose a small classic herringbone for this first run to see how the wool and the shades would work. Part of the bolt is woven with just the pale grey to make a length of plain contrast. With minimal processing, no enzyme treatments or nasties, just a beautiful job done.

And the fleece? Well, that's what makes this fabric really special to us...and, we hope, our customers. The white fleeces are from the Llanwenog breed of sheep, and these particular Llanwenogs live on a farm in .....Llanwenog Parish. Not too far away from the knit studio and just a few miles from the weaver. The grey tones are supplied by Black Welsh Mountain sheep from two farms, one near Brecon and one in Carmarthenshire. Both breeds have fascinating stories, and the connection of Llanwenogs to this part of Wales - with its own tales - is irresistable.

And what will the fabric become? Well, there will be a jacket to start, and probably a Llynfi styling of course!

Or, if you'd like to make up your own special item, we are also retailing this fabric by the metre. Another weave pattern is in the pipeline, and may be available in time for Wonderwool Wales. In the meantime - stock is limited! At 150cm wide, this medium tweed weight is £50/m - do get in touch if you are interested.

Find out more about the breeds of sheep used:

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

The Cambrian Mountains Wool Project

So let's start off 2015 with this - 'cos there's a great Challenge involved and the deadline for your submissions is looming up very quickly!

What's it all about? Well, find out lots more from the website but here's a potted history:

a few years ago now the Cambrian Mountains Initiative was set up to work at promoting, encouraging and stimulating the very rural economy of Mid Wales. The Initiative started out with lamb and has done a fantastic job of raising the profile of farmed products. Wool has also been part of the scene for most of that time, but there wasn't a clear way forward.

Two seminars for all interested people, including reps from the British Wool Marketing Board, to explore possibilities were held, and research carried out by the Textile Technologies Project....much groundwork was underway.

Having found a source of very beautiful yarns, grown to very high standards in the Region, my Wensleydale knitwear was accepted as the first to qualify for licensing - using the quality mark for products from the Cambrian Mountains Region.

The Steering Group, of which I am a member, began to look further, with the Wool Board, at the possibilities of buying and processing traceably Welsh wool - harder than you may think and a whole different story. But look! We're doing it, and presenting you with a Challenge - check it out and share far and wide...the closing date is 2nd Feb so no time to lose!

New Year (again) New Resolutions (again...)

This is one seriously neglected Blog people! And we were doing so well.....But now - it features on the front page of our website so extra incentive to keep you updated with the interesting textile-y stuff in our lives : )

Lots to write about after all:

our beautiful new fabric, first run of several we hope, from traceable local fleece (and we'll also be selling it by the metre...);

our involvement with Cambrian Mountains Wool and the fantastic Design Challenge;

plus work on upcoming additions to our collection.