During Wovember we always try to celebrate wool from the field to the finished object and to introduce you to some of the people involved in all aspects of wool work through that process. This year we thought that it would be really interesting to follow one particular story through that journey. Joy McMillan hand-dyes British wool bases for her company The Knitting Goddess . Joy was keen to custom spin a yarn which was thoroughly local to her. Louise met with Joy, and her partner Bobbie, to talk about the ideas behind this yarn. They also talked to Clare Tunney, a shepherdess with Poll Dorsets, whose fleece is going in the yarn.
I don’t think it is a secret that I am passionate about British wool. When I heard that Joy McMillan was creating her own Yorkshire wool I really wanted to sit down with her and hear all about her plans. Hence, this is an audio interview – a bit different for Wovember – but I really hope you enjoy listening and I am sure you will agree the texture of the discussion works better in a recorded interview, rather than a transcribed one.
Joy – like many lovers and practitioners of wool – has been getting increasingly jaded at the amount of wool imported into the UK, when we have such a diverse variety of breeds right here on our doorstep. I was keen to ask her about the process of creating a bespoke, custom yarn – sourced from Yorkshire and spun at the Natural Fibre Company.
What could be better than hearing about a new British yarn from someone else so enamoured with local wool? Well, also sitting down with the woman who owns the sheep whose fleece will go into that yarn, that’s what!
Claire Tunney owns the Fourways flock of Poll Dorsets, which belonged to her late father, David. Claire’s parents established the flock when they were expecting her, thirty years ago. Now expecting herself, Claire talks about this new woolly world that she is inhabiting.
Claire freely admits that the most interaction she had with the Dorsets, prior to her dad’s illness, was washing them one weekend per year and getting them ready for the local shows. But listening to Claire, I know you will agree that her attitude of changing career, rolling up her sleeves and caring for these animals is not only commendable but it totally seems like she was born to it.
Claire, Joy and Bobbie discuss how they struck up their woolly friendship through Claire’s wish to try and increase interest in the wool and make more money for the fleece than the British Wool Marketing Board could offer. What started with a casual email to Joy, asking if she wanted a fleece ended with 40 kilos of yarn being sent to the Natural Fibre Company.
In addition to the Poll Dorset wool from Fourways, Joy’s yarn will be blended with Bluefaced Leicester fleece from Rigmoor Reindeer, a farm in nearby Ripon. Run By Becky and Richard Burniston, the couple work in educating people about their animals and of modern and traditional farming and livestock-keeping methods. We were very lucky to visit them whilst I was on this trip. Later in Wovember, we will talk to Lara Pollard-Jones at Natural Fibre Company, who has been dealing with this custom spin for the mill. She will write about the job she does at NFC and how she works with clients, like Joy, to create wonderful wool yarns.
You can listen to the full interview (22 minutes) via the audio player below.
(please note if you navigate away from this page, the audio will stop.)
Thanks to Joy, Bobbie and Claire for taking the time to talk so generously about their love for wool and this new yarn, which will be coming soon.