Yarn. The cornerstone of every knitting obsession. When I set out to make This Thing of Paper, I knew I had to get the yarns right. I spent a lot of time looking for yarns that had the right feel and the right colours. I knew I wanted yarns that carried stories and had significance beyond "this is a nice colour". Having Blacker Yarns lend yarn support felt like a major step in the right direction: their yarns lend an extra dimension to the project.
Hi. I have been waxing lyrically about your yarns for years, and it was a great joy collaborating on this project with you. Could you tell us a bit about your yarns and yourself?
At Blacker Yarns we specialise in natural, breed specific yarns and innovative, unusual blends. We buy all of our fleece from UK small producers and scour, card, spin and dye everything under one roof in Cornwall.
What can people expect from your yarns? You are a yarn company with a difference.
Yes, and people can expect each of our yarns to be different! Knitting with our yarns is about the unique characteristics of a diverse range of British breeds. Wool can be many things.
Yes, the two different cardigans above really showcases that. Vellum is knitted in Tamar DK whilst Incunabula is worked in British Classic DK. I chose the two yarns after swatching carefully, so I understood the difference between them. British Classic is a really fantastic workhorse yarn which will wear like iron, whilst Tamar has more drape and feels lighter despite reading as the same weight.
Tamar is a semi-worsted lustre yarn spun from the fleeces of fine British rare breeds, including Teeswater, Wensleydale and Leicester Longwool. The natural grey of the Leicester Longwool makes two subtle base shades in silvery or mid grey. To give some body and bulk, we base the lustre fibres on a grounding of 30% Cornish Mule, which also has lustre as well as additional softness.
The British Classic range is based on a blend of British breeds white wool from our selected supplier farms, combined with 30% Blue-faced Leicester from a group of farms in North Wales. The added Blue-faced Leicester wool softens the yarn to make comfortable, light and warm garments. We start with the natural creamy white and then add heathered grey or fawn using mainly Hebridean or Black Welsh Mountain fleece for the grey or Manx fleece for the fawn. We then dye the three resulting natural shades in subtle colours, which will all tone with each other.
And that is just two of your yarns. As I said, I love how all your yarns have similar stories about sourcing materials and carefully blending various breeds to get the right result. I like to think I know a great deal about yarn (as a knitter) and yet every time I swatch another one of your yarns, I learn something new. Just like knitting is never "just knitting", wool is never "just wool". And you make that experience accessible to someone like me who doesn't spin.
Now, let's chat books. This Thing of Paper is a knitting book about knitting and books, so it feels pretty obvious to ask you about your favourite read?
My personal favourite book is The Earthsea Quartet by Ursula LeGuin. It's a beautifully written fantasy epic, with wizards and dragons and all that good stuff. But there is also a strong environmental message that fits with our outlook here at Blacker Yarns. And if you read closely, there is yarn, and spinning too!
I actually quoted Ursula LeGuin in This Thing of Paper! She is an amazingly powerful writer and I read The Earthsea Quartet as a teenager - it is fantastic.
Finally, where can people find your yarns? ?
We sell our yarns online through our website, www.blackeryarns.co.uk and we also have a selection of lovely stockists in the UK and around the world. We attend several shows around the UK every year, including Edinburgh Yarn Festival, Yarndale, Woolfest and Wonderwool.
You also sponsor the Podcast Lounge at Edinburgh Yarn Festival — which is actually where I was first told by people to go make This Thing of Paper! I love that little fact. Thank you for taking time out of your very, very busy schedule to have a chat. I love your yarns and I am so happy you are a part of my book.