Onwards with the Shropshire Ply story..
Having found local flocks and got on good terms with the sheep wranglers it's onto the specific qualities of wool and designing the yarn from the ground up.
We want to create a yarn that will be durable, warm, reasonably soft, give good stitch definition, and this year we wanted just a little bit of colour.
We start each time with Shropshire sheep. These have fine, short staple fleeces. Yarn spun solely from these would be bouncy and warm but might not hold together well, Shropshire fleeces are famed for their refusal to hold together when you try and pick them up. To make the yarn less of a niche market and more like the type of yarn Twenty First century knitters and crocheters expect, we add fleece from other breeds chosen for their particular attributes. This year we added Lleyn and Dutch Spotted fleece from Shrewsbury. The Lleyns have a medium soft, semi-lustre fleece which will add shine and body. The Dutch Spotted have a longer staple which will help stabilise the finished yarn, and their dark spots will give us a touch of chocolatey brown. We were offered some other very interesting fleeces, and once we'd seen them we had to have them. So there are a few Llanwenog in there adding softness, and some Castlemilk Moorit which lend more silky softness as well their beautiful toffee colouring. We have rounded the mix off with some local alpaca fleeces in a glorious mix of colour, and the fabulous softness and sheen that we all love alpaca for.
The finished yarn should be a soft pale moorit shade, be soft to handle and be bouncy and warm.