Friday, 30 September 2016

Material Things: Dovestone Natural Aran

When Jess of Baa Ram Ewe contacted me to tell me about their newest yarn and ask if I'd like to sample it, I said Yes please! Baa Ram Ewe are a small yarn company based north of Leeds; in their words:
Our masterplan is to make Yorkshire famous for wool production across the world once more, reconnecting it to its woolly heritage. We've put ourselves at the centre of this renaissance commanding worldwide appeal for our luxurious and authentic wools, all spun and made in Yorkshire.

Sounds good, doesn't it? Most knitters will know that British wool has long shed its reputation for being itchy, scratchy and stiff; this is thanks in part to local yarn producers like Baa Ram Ewe who have developed modern blends of lustrous wools, suitable to wear against the skin. The local factor is key to Baa Ram Ewe's appeal, and their catalogue is photographed beautifully, featuring chilly Northern idylls, cold enough to crack out all your favourite knitwear. I particularly enjoyed the story behind their Titus yarn, which was named after Sir Titus Salt, the founder of the Saltaire wool mill (now an amazing textile art gallery). The catalogue shows the inspiration for the yarn colours and names, which I thought was a great touch.

They launched their newest range Dovestone Natural Aran in the summer, and I received this lovely sample pack in the post. This is a blend of 50% Bluefaced Leicester , 25% Wensleydale Longwool and 25% Masham, and as you might expect, it comes in 5 undyed, natural shades of sheep. The shade card was especially handy, as the colours slightly differently in real life - as you would expect from an undyed fibre.

The packaging was all really lovely: matte paper, textured cardstock and translucent frosted stickers. I received shade 1, which looks like the ideal sheep's coat, but the coloured options are very subtle with a slightly mottled look. The yarn has has a beautiful natural sheen to it.The sample skein was enough to knit a large swatch, and the two-ply yarn is spun fairly loosely, allowing the fibres to bloom out and creating a soft and squishy handle.  I'd love to try out colour work and cables and see how it behaves.

It's worth commenting on the fact that this is quite a thin yarn for a self-described aran weight. Aran yarns normally take 5mm needles, but I knit this swatch on 4.5mm needles and it was looser than I prefer. It appears the same width as a DK-weight yarn I'm currently knitting with on 3.75mm needles. So it's worth swatching carefully with this yarn before launching in with an pattern for aran-weight yarn.

It's great to discover small businesses who are doing so much for local manufacturing as well as their heritage. Dovestone Natural Aran costs £14 per 100g hank (170m) so it's comparably priced with other small yarn companies. This is the kind of yarn that fits in perfectly with a slow-making ethos: make little, choose well.

Yarn samples provided by Baa Ram Ewe; all opinions my own.