Here in the Southwest corner of the UK we have developed a worldwide reputation, alongside our sister company, The Natural Fibre Company, for producing and selling the finest quality wool products, some with fleece from a variety of rare, regional and unusual breeds. Due to the scarcity of these breeds of sheep we produce occasional limited-edition ranges, which are always delightful to work with. Our limited-edition yarns can be used for all our knitting patterns listed on our website, and as with these unique varieties of sheep you will find the fabrics differ with each one.
The team working in our spinning mill in Launceston are industry-trained technicians and specialist finishers who work with the fleece of 50 of the 60-plus breeds of sheep that exist in Britain today, including rare and specialised varieties. As a result of this, we regularly stock Rare Aran such as North Ronaldsay. On their native island, the rare North Ronaldsay sheep live on the beaches and eat seaweed. Their thick fleece comes to us full of sand and salt but makes a lovely soft warm DK or Aran wool in three natural shades. Hebridean Aran comes from the hardy Hebridean sheep with their very dark brown, almost black, fleeces that gradually grey with age, so the wool is bitter chocolate in colour with occasional silvery hints.
The Norfolk Horn sheep have black faces and legs and magnificent curling horns on both rams and ewes. Well suited to flat land and cold winds, they thrive on even poor land. When cross-bred in the nineteenth century with the Southdown, they produced the popular Suffolk breed. They became very rare and when first classified and as such there were scarcely a dozen registered animals. With Rare Breed Society support and careful breeding, the breed has recovered from Critical status and is now classified as At Risk. The short, dense wool varies from white to quite fawn, with younger sheep in particular having a mottled fleece. Our selection of finer, younger fleeces has produced a smooth, bulky, low twist, rich ivory yarn influenced by the dark hairs of the wool.
Portland Aran comes from a small downland sheep, originating on the Dorset coastland, with a lovely, neat appearance, including neat short horns on both rams and ewes and a brown face and legs. The dense down wool is typically short and crimpy and has a creamy, off-white colour. The Portland has a useful trait in that it can breed at any time of year, whereas most sheep will breed only over the winter to produce their lambs in the spring or summer. The creamy white Aran yarn is crisp and firm with good stitch definition, slightly sticky so it will felt well for accessories or just make a great outer garment.
Our St Kilda Laceweight range is made with the fleece of Boreray/Soay/Shetland, blended together. The Boreray and Soay sheep are some of the oldest and rarest found on the island of St Kilda. There is a dedicated website about the island which is a world heritage site on the outer edges of the Hebrides.
Take a look at our Yarns by Breed section to discover more about the wonderful ranges that we have available to purchase and our Map of Sheep Breed Origins page for the approximate original location of these very unique animals. The Rear Breeds Survival Trust states that there are 27 native rare breeds and 4 priority breeds of British sheep. Why not visit their website to find out more about these fascinating creatures, who provide us with some of the finest quality fleece to work with and wear?