I’ve been meaning to write about our London friend, Rachel Atkinson, and her splendid adventure: making yarn from the wool of her father’s sheep. The problem: the yarn is wonderful and special (that’s not the bit that’s the problem), and she only has a limited quantity of it at a time and it sells out fast. But here’s the thing: the only way to get it, is to know about it, get on Rachel’s email list, and jump on it when she emails. (As I write this post, there is still some of her newest yarn available in the shop.)
When nonknitters are amused to learn that I attend sheep and wool festivals, I like to shock them a little by saying, “I’m nothing. Some knitters actually buy sheep and start a flock.” Spontaneous sheep herding is a known hazard of the festival circuit. On the way home from a day at Rhinebeck or Maryland, one may have to tell the family not merely that one has impulse-purchased a spinning wheel, but that one is looking for an acreage for one’s sheep. It’s a spectrum.
Rachel’s story is different. Her father, John Atkinson, has been raising sheep since she was little, a hobby that helps him train sheepdogs. For Rachel’s own telling of the story (and family photos that could make a person consider her own childhood rather lacking in lambs, bunnies and puppies) check out this Loop London interview.
(Does the label remind you of anything?)
Rachel has been knitting, designing, and tech-editing for years, but only recently ventured to turn her dad’s fleeces into yarn. She has the wool scoured locally, and then spun into yarn at the venerable John Arbon mill. Quality all the way.
I am lucky to have a skein of Rachel’s first-run, all-Hebridean yarn from the July 23, 2015 clip. To me, certainly, it’s unique. I have never known a yarn quite so sheepy. It has a nice smooth hand, and I would guess that, knitted up, it drapes a bit; there is a soupçon of slinkiness. (I haven’t knitted it yet because I’m not ready to break the pretty skein.) Due to the depth of color, it’s so hard to photograph that I have nicked these photos from Rachel’s site.
What are Hebridean sheep, you ask? They are these little fellers/gals. They live in Yorkshire, a place that is magical to me because — top three reasons here — Yorkshire is home to (1) the Rowan mill in Holmfirth (2) All Creatures Great and Small and (3) our dear friend since the Rowanette days of yore, Emma (or near enough; I first saw the dales with Emma). As richly dark brown as the yarn is, it looks even darker on the sheep.
It smells of fresh air and shoe polish. It’s the real deal. Congratulations, Rachel, well done.