Shropshire Ply Double Knitting by Ewe & Ply

Shropshire Ply Double Knitting by Ewe & Ply

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A truly local yarn made from fleeces gathered by us from local pedigree Shropshire sheep breeders and from Teri's own Shropshire sheep. We then blended some of it with coloured Wensleydale cross Blue Faced Leicester so we had a light marled grey. We put the white and the grey in the same dye pots which gives you a wider colour palette which are all tonally compatible. A bouncy woollen spun yarn with great loft. Seriously squishy!

100g approx. - 247m/270yds

 4mm Needles

19 stitches x 28 rows to 10x10cm tension square

Hand wash or risk it in a wool cycle in the machine, dry flat

 

THE FULL STORY 

Our local yarn comes in three bases. The white is pure Shropshire. The grey is Shropshire blended with local coloured Wensleydale/Blue-Faced Leicester crosses. This means that we have been able to expand our colour range by dyeing the grey in the same dye vat as the white resulting in two tonally compatible shade ranges. Our black 4 ply was spun from Black Welsh Mountain fleeces and then blended with British alpaca. We also have a luxury 4 ply from a British spinner who has devised a gorgeous combination of Romney lambs’ wool, Blue-Faced Leicester and combed angora. All fibres are British, spun and dyed in Britain from flocks with high standards of animal welfare.

 

The Shropshire breed has one of the oldest flock books and is the result of breeding sheep local to Shropshire and Staffordshire (a large hardy sheep with good feet and high quality fleece) with the Southdown (to remove the horns) and the improved Leicester (to give docility) resulting in a breed which rapidly became very popular all over the world in the 19th century. Unfortunately, due to economic pressures, war and fashion, by 1973 there were only 403 breeding ewes left. This lead to the breed being registered as rare until 2012 when the number of breeding ewes reached 3,000. The Shropshire is a large sheep and fattens well which has led to its popularity as a terminal sire for sheep destined for the table. Shropshires are also used to graze under vineyards and in Christmas tree plantations as they don’t tend to eat trees like other breeds of sheep. Breeders have recently started improving fleece quality which, like so many breeds of sheep, has been neglected. The fleece of Shropshire sheep is quite different to that of upland sheep. Instead of being silky and lustrous, it is bouncy and light with tight waves (crimp).

By collecting fleeces in small numbers we’d be helping smallholders who really didn’t have enough fleece to warrant taking them to the nearest Wool Board depot, but who wanted to see their fleece go to something useful.

In 2016 we gathered up just under 300 fleeces, in 10’s and 20’s, and sometimes 5’s. None of the fleeces for our yarn came from more than 10 miles of where we live and work. We met some of sheep whose fleece we bought, and got to see where, and how, they were kept. We also talked to the people who kept them, and were privy to the enthusiasm and pride that was inherent in what they were doing.

We have skirted and picked each fleece that came to us, wrapped them, bagged them and delivered them to the spinner. Our yarn has been spun by Paul Crookes of the Halifax Spinning Company who has a life time of experience spinning fibre. He has advised us and blended the fibres for us producing a traditionally spun yarn.