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British Wool

April 4, 2011
by

A knitwear students’ perspective


For my final university project, I am incorporating British wool into the majority of my womenswear collection. Yarn choice plays a major part in the creation of knitted garments, as different yarns create a range of different looks e.g. the drape and texture, or the handle e.g. is it soft, crisp or sturdy. The count (weight) of yarn determines whether the fabric will be a chunky or a fine gauge.

If there is wool fibre used in your cardigan or jumper  it will most likely be from New Zealand and Australian sheep. British wool is mostly used for carpets as the touch is very rough and scratchy. Not something you would like to wear against your skin! Therefore encountering problem number one for wanting to use British wool in my work – in most cases knitwear should feel lovely, the quality is very important. However, the fact that we have wool producing sheep in the UK, yet are using yarn from the other side of the world seems quite ridiculous (ignoring for a minute where most things are manufactured today – a whole other debate).

Without going into too much depth, there is some gorgeous British hand knitting yarns, at the forefront of this are Rowan with their Purelife range. For me (and also thinking on a more mass/commercial scale) I did not want to have a whole collection made up of chunky yarn.

This is where I can talk about the Bowmont sheep – a very rare breed who hold a very interesting story. Originally bred in Scotland over 20 years to achieve a fine fibre quality (to be the equivalent of a New Zealand merino yarn) – for farmers to have another type of sheep with increased value from the very fine yarn. The project seized as there was no demand for the type of yarn thus the sheep were send away either to be bred again, losing their pure Bowmont quality or slaughtered. However, the remaining few reside in Devon, so there is still hope for a nice feeling British sheep!

Here they are:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In regards to my collection I am developing pieces in the chunky type of Bowmont yarn (problem number two – there was none of the special fine variety left for me to try out or use as a small surfing apparel company Finisterre took all of the clip!) Very good news for the sheep but not for me – I am now working with the dreaded scratchy type of British wool so I can have finer weight pieces however now I’m using it alongside a merino yarn (not UK produced!). They create a good contrast especially when dyed (which is another story) and a compromise to have a semi-good feeling fabric. This British yarn is from University owned sheep from the agricultural and environmental campus – again holding another story.

Writing this reminds me that the original intent of using British yarn has slightly changed – from trying to make the most of resources from our country to now an added meaning of the story, in the end can possibly mean more than the item itself.

 

To give a better context I will post a few examples of my work over the next couple of weeks.

 

Related links:

http://www.knitrowan.com/

http://www.devonfinefibres.co.uk/

http://www.finisterreuk.com/design/doing-clever-things-with-wool.php

Images: Bowmont sheep (Finisterre website)

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One Comment leave one →
  1. April 17, 2011 8:02 pm

    Hear hear!

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