11th – 17th October is ‘Wool Week’. Wool week is a campaign backed by HRH Prince of Wales to promote the benefits of woolen products – especially products made from British wool. Events supported by wool organisations, industry associations and the textile industry across the world will be taking place all week in different locations around the country to communicate the importance of wool. The Sheep Parade in Covent Garden Piazza hosted by Lyle and Scott on the 12th October is a must see.
I was saddened to learn that it costs the British farmer more to shear his sheep than he would get for the fleece. A fleece is worth as little as £1 to a UK farmer so many fleeces are burnt. It can be disputed that these fleeces are too rough and scratchy for the fashion market so for what else could the fibre be used? The aim of this campaign is to educate retailers and the public about the properties and benefits of British wool and promote products such as carpets and rugs and insulation within building construction which would ideal for the coarser sheep breeds. The Prince’s Campaign argues that the eco and environmental benefits of British wool outweigh those of synthetic and man-made fibres. Buy British wool and you cut the carbon footprint of wool imported into the country. Wool used in interiors is more fire resistant and more resilient to wear and tear than man made fibres and will repell dust mites.
On the high street there is an increasing trend for ‘fast fashion’ where synthetic fabric is choosen as a cheaper alternative to keep up to date with the latest fashion fads. A study from Defra shows nearly 2 million tonnes of textiles go into UK landfill every year. Wool will bio degrade unlike oil based synthetics. The Campaign for wool is getting brands such as M&S and John Lewis involved in Wool week who have promised to endorse products made from wool. It is hoped that other high street brands will follow suit to help British farmers boost the demand for British wool.
I am passionate about hand knitting and celebrating traditional crafts. You have probably guessed that I am a bit of a British wool fan so I am very excited about wool week. As a knitter, fibre and texture is essential in the design process and I always favour wool and natural fibres. I enjoy knitting with Bluefaced Leicester. It is one of my favourite yarns. Rowan’s DK Bluefaced Leicester yarn is a wonderfully soft and bouncy yarn which is ideal for cable and aran patterns. The natural creamy ecru colour is fantasic but it also takes up dyes beautifully. Another favourite is Black Welsh (again available from Rowan). It is an amazing rich brown/black. Other yarns are also available such as the new Bluefaced Leceister boucle. I’m not normally a boucle fan but this yarn is special and I may just keep this on display in my house to have a quick squeeze and a sniff when passing as it is very sheepy indeed! Rowan is celebrating wool week by launching a range of knitting patterns using their Pure Life British Sheep Breeds yarns. They are available to download on the 1st October. Click HERE for more info. Rowan are also hosting a range of other events to mark wool week. See their news and events page for more info.
I am also a fan of Shetland yarns for their colours – natural colours and dyed. On a visit to Shetland (see HalfandHalf’s post below) we popped into yarn brookers Jamieson and Smith and Jamiesons of Shetland. If you are in the area I highly reccommend a visit. Both shops have yarns available to order online. Another favourite of mine is the Wendsleydale Longwool Sheep Shop whose stall I like to visit and stock up from at iKnit and the knitting and stitching show. Other sheep breeds to keep an eye out for are the North Ronaldsay seaweed eating sheep from Orkney, Jacobs and Suffolks. Rachael Matthews and Louise Harries haberdashery shop in Bethnal Green, London ‘Prick Your Finger’ is a great place to source rare British breed yarns and yarns spun by small farmer producers.
I know that I am preaching to the converted to the Outcast knitters but for those who still need convincing that wool is wonderful, I would like to echo the words of John Thorley, Chairman of the Prince of Wales Wool project and say ‘Give fleece a chance!’