Monday, 19 May 2014

Where the yarn comes from Part 1

Last weekend I was lucky enough to go away on a fabulous textile artist's retreat in Devon organised by the amazing and talented Terri Bate. In amongst all the eating and drinking, knitting, spinning, chatting and laughing we made a couple of visits.

Over the last few years it has been really encouraging to see an increasing amount of yarns made from British Breeds, particularly from small, rare breed flocks. A significant amount of this yarn will be produced at Blacker Yarns in Launceston, Cornwall. Sue Blacker gave us a very informative guided tour of her woollen mill and I took these photographs of the fascinating pieces of equipment that they use to take the fibre on its journey from fleece to yarn.

I have to point out at this stage that this post is quite picture heavy. Rather than give a documentary style description of the processing of yarn I wanted to give a sense of the amazing, dangerous and in many cases quite elderly pieces of equipment involved in producing the soft, warm yarns that we find on the shelves.

For example, just look at the teeth on the machine that washes the worst of the dirt from the raw fleece.

 Many of the ancient machines combine metal and wood in their construction.

Bobbins being filled with yarn stretch into the distance.

I love the contrast of the bright primary colours plastic spindles with the gentle, natural grey of the yarn.

We were allowed to sink our hands into this soft, white merino - it's easy to imagine that you are handling a cloud.

Cones and cones of yarn....

Everywhere you looked there were machines for winding, plying and balling yarns.

Singles ready to be plied...

Yarn everywhere!

Ready for the next batch...

Next time I'll show you the yarn that followed me home...