A tale of Titus

As you know, the story of the yarns I use in my designs is very important to me. I am always interested to know as much as possible about a yarn’s provenance and background; like to use fibres that are locally grown and processed where possible; and am especially keen on yarns that showcase the unique qualities of different breeds of British sheep. One of my recent ‘wow’ discoveries is Titus, a wonderful new yarn that has been developed by my Yorkshire friends at baa ram ewe. I am sure many of you will have heard of Titus already, even if you haven’t knit with it, as each new batch seems to disappear from baa ram ewe’s shelves in Headingley and Harrogate almost as fast as it is spun up. Why is Titus so special? Well, this yarn blends the lustrous fibres of two beautiful British sheep breeds — Grey Wensleydale and Blue Faced Leicester — together with 30% UK Alpaca. These three different fibres are worsted-spun together to create a yarn that has a gorgeous sheeny-soft hand, but also tremendous strength. What I especially like about this yarn is that it feels incredibly luxurious but, because of the particular qualities of the fibres of which it is composed, is also clearly really tough and hard wearing. It has a really unique hand — smooth, yet because of the Wensleydale, slightly hairy — and you can tell as you knit it that the yarn simply does not want to bobble or pill. So far, Titus has been available in three natural shades, but five new colours are about to be produced, meaning that the yarn now also has a beautifully balanced palette. In short, I love Titus, and have just completed a couple of designs using it, which I’ll show you very shortly (huzzah!) First, though, I caught up with Verity Britton of baa ram ewe to hear more about Titus and the thinking behind it.

titus2

How did the idea for Titus first come about?

Owning a wool shop and choosing among the hundreds of different yarns that are offered to us does make you think about what your dream yarn would be. We love the fuzziness of our local Wensleydale and the softness of the Bluefaced Leicester and Alpaca, and when the opportunity came to have a small batch spun, we jumped at the chance. It was amazing seeing our dreams become reality!


Can you tell us about the process of the yarn’s development? What was involved?

We knew what mix of fibres we wanted in our yarn, but we’d never made one before, so we took some advice from the the wonderful John Arbon of Fibre Harvest, who spun our first ever batch of Titus. We’re passionate about supporting British Wool and UK fibres and showcasing our local breeds here in Yorkshire, so it some ways it was an easy choice to make. We could say we had a firm idea of exactly how the yarn should be spun and what it would look like but in fact we put our trust in John who had far more experience at spinning wonderful yarns than we did. We were very nervous when we ordered our initial 12 kilos- would we like it? Would anyone else like it? But when the box arrived we breathed a huge sigh of relief. It was absolutely gorgeous and surpassed all of our expectations.


Who was Titus Salt and why is he associated with your yarn?

Sir Titus Salt was a Leeds born wool manufacturer who became tired of the smoke and pollution emanating from Yorkshire’s mills and factory chimneys and built a new mill on the outskirts of Shipley, followed by houses, bathhouses, an institute, hospital, almshouses and churches which became the village of Saltaire, now a World Heritage Site. But this wasn’t Sir Titus’ only achievement. In 1836, Titus came upon some bales of Alpaca in a warehouse in Liverpool and, after taking some samples away to experiment, came back and bought the consignment. Sir Titus became the creator of the lustrous and subsequently hugely fashionable alpaca cloth, which contributed massively to his success as a manufacturer. And that’s why we’ve added 30 per cent of the finest UK Alpaca to our yarn, which adds a little bit of magic to our wonderful wool, and strengthens that connection to our Yorkshire heritage even further.

titus1


It is fair to say that Titus has been a roaring success, recently voted no.1 British yarn by the readers of Knit Now Magazine! Do you have any plans for new colourways and ranges?

We have been completely bowled over by the popularity of Titus and can’t thank knitters and customers enough for their support, especially for their patience when we sell out! It’s been so popular that we have now been able to introduce a brand new Titus colour range spun by the amazing Peter Longbottom of West Yorkshire Spinners. There are eight shades, all inspired by our Yorkshire surroundings, which blend beautifully together making them ideal for colourwork. It’s being dyed up as we speak and should be available in the next week or so- we’re so excited!

baa ram ewe is located in the historic hub of the UK textile industry. Is that heritage important to you? How?

One of the biggest reasons for opening baa ram ewe in Leeds and now Harrogate was to reaffirm Yorkshire’s historic link to wool and to celebrate that heritage. Industrial towns like Leeds, Bradford, Halifax and Huddersfield would not have flourished without the wool trade, and towns like Harrogate with the Yorkshire Dales on its doorstep mean sheep breeds like the Wensleydale and Swaledale are practically on your doorstep. We want to celebrate that woolly heritage and we love that so many of our customers want to see and buy yarn that is local to Yorkshire- it means we must be doing something right!

titus3

I lived and worked in Yorkshire for many years, and love it for many reasons. What is special to you about Yorkshire and its landscape?

It’s hard to put your finger on it, but for me there is an understated natural warmth and beauty to both the Yorkshire landscape and the people that live here. Yorkshire has a really captivating mix of both industrial and rural heritage that is really unique, creating a quiet confidence that envelopes you and makes you proud, even if- like me- you weren’t born here. It’s a rich, varied and special place and if you haven’t been- come and visit soon!


What is your favourite Yorkshire expression or dialect word? (For the record, mine is probably GINNEL).

Oooh I like Ginnel too! Joint favourite though is one I got from my husband and is RADGED, as in ‘he were proper radged’, meaning very, very angry. To me, it’s almost an onomatopoeia. My mother in law says it all the time and it always makes me chuckle.

Finally, what’s next for baa ram ewe?

Oh Lord, who knows? We’ve just opened a second store in Harrogate, North Yorkshire, so we’re still recovering from that. We can’t wait for our new Titus colour range to hit the shelves any day now, and then we’ll be taking that to Woolfest in Cumbria and TNNA in the U.S in June, as well the new Yarndale show in Skipton this September. Oh, and then we’re organising the second Yorkshire Wool Week in October. So just another quiet year for us again then….

Thanks, Verity!

And finally, here’s a wee hint of what’s to come in my Titus designs :

Pussy_Willow_001

31 responses

  1. Thanks for sharing info on this yarn. I hadn’t come across this producer yet, but as a coincidence ordered some Wensleydale pure wool yarn a few days ago. It looked amazing and can’t wait to touch and try it. I’ll have to add this one to my wish list, after the New Lanark’s one :)

  2. Titus looks amazing! And I love hearing about the source of the fibres. Also the idea of knitting one of your designs in worsted weight (giving me more chance of finishing it) is very exciting. I’m watching this space!

  3. So excited to see what you have been doing with Titus Kate. It’s a wonderful yarn – I’m in the middle of knitting a jumper with it (Amy Herzog’s Triimmings) and am very happy with the look and feel. I went shopping for a British Breeds yarn in natural shades with BFL in mind so when I came across Titus I just had to try it. The fabric is very lightweight but warm and has a springy feel to it; I think I’m going to love the finished piece.

  4. Exciting! Looking forward to the new design. Titus sounds like lovely yarn. I have a cardigan (Audrey in Unst) for which I used BFL, and I love the way it has worn — no bobbles or pills and still looks as good as new. I have a bit of an aversion to alpaca though as it always makes my eyes itch when I knit. I’d be interested to know if this has a slightly ‘sheddy’ quality or whether, because of the mix, it’s more stable, for want of a better word, in the way that BFL and shetland wools are.

  5. Ginnel or snicket???? My favourite has always been mardy. I’m very much looking forward to seeing the new design, Titus is wonderful and there are some new colours coming too!

  6. This is just THE most perfect read for me right now. I’m a first year Contemporary Textiles student from Shetland College and I am at this moment waiting at York station for my train. I travelled down here to attend The Bradford Textiles Society prize giving to collect an award for my knitwear design – the event was held in Salts Mill, Saltaire. Oh my goodness I just fell in love. Beautiful, stunning building. I visited the Textile history exhibition and was fascinated by Titus Salts and his achievements. An amazing piece of history. I’m travelling home to Shetland today, which of course has a strong knitting tradition and I am so happy to have visited. I will certainly be hoping to try some Titus wool! Thank you for this post!!

  7. Thank you for sharing more of the story behind the wonderful yarn Titus. I knitted a sweater using this yarn 6 months ago, and have been wearing it a lot since. Norway has a lot to learn from Great Britain when it comes to wool, and Titus is just an example of how you produce and promote the use of more rare breeds. I have 88 precious grams left of my Titus, and though I had a project in mind, now I´ll just have to wait and see….. or, just order some more:)

  8. Your comments on Deco regarding the lovely Blacker yarns turned me right around regarding yarn and its provenance. I jumped at the chance to participate in the Shepherd and Shearer as a result and I’ve just found some wonderful locally grown and spun yarn here in the Toronto area. It has added great dimension to my knitting experience!

  9. I bookmarked Baa Ram Ewe when you last wrote about it. Titus has been sold out since then. Eek!

  10. Titus sounds wonderful. I hope you will have kits for your new patterns. I know I am going to want to follow your lead. Take care.

  11. The maternal side of my family is from Saltaire, they all worked in the mill – grandad was a ‘burler and mender’ (fixing small faults in the cloth suchs a slubs or loose threads when it came off the loom), my Mum was probably in the last generation to woek there, as a clerk in the 1960s. So what better reason could there be for me to get some of this yarn!

  12. Good God woman. I can hardly wait for the post. And now a pussy willow teaser ; I’m speechless. Most of all the success, that has arisen out of heads and hearts in gear for this micro company, in a world saturated with billion dollar advertised junk, truly brings tears to my eyes. Thank you too many times for being who you are Kate in getting these beautiful stories to us.

    From us. My son makes and repairs outdoor gear from his basement shop. He cares about every stitch he ships; now, without a word from him, orders from around the world for a ‘sled kit’ he designed and makes and never stops trying to improve, for ski guides dragging injured out of the backcountry. He too can’t keep up with the demand but insists on making every one himself. :)

  13. It is lovely yarn, particuarly the idea of it in colour! I am very tempted. Stop tempting me, I am trying to work out of my (enormous) stash!
    I am very much looking forward to the design.

  14. Wow I love the story behind the yarn. Yarn creates stories for the artist and for the wearer. Titus Salt and his legacy continues today. Thanks Kate and congratulations on your wonderful blog! Your designs really make me want to learn to knit again.

  15. Thanks! I love your tidbits about language! Now I know that we have a Ginnel running between two streets in our neighborhood. I always called it “the secret way’ (to get to Kensington Road from Sagamore)

  16. Thanks for sharing this yarn! My grandmother was born (1900) and raised in West Yorkshire before she moved to Massachusetts, I look forward to knitting something up in Titus, and bring a bit of family history into a knit project.

  17. Very exciting and I do follow Baa Ram Ewe on their site. Will be anxious to see if we can get some here across the pond without paying a fortune for posting. Really looking foreward to seeing what you have in mind for pussy willows, I have done some in Jacobean embroidery (3 dimensional and fuzzy) and they are a favourite part of my Spring. Yea, you GO!!! Thank you.

  18. I am sitting next to my recently arrived, single skein of Titus…so THANK YOU for this lovely post. I had planned to knit this beautiful yarn in a small shawl (Oaklet) to wrap around myself…but your beautiful Catkin hat gives me pause! What to do…what to do…Thanks Kate, and Happy Spring.

  19. They’re coming to TNNA? Good news, that must mean that US yarn shops will carry Titus! It looks and sounds divine. I love alpaca and BFL yarns, so hope to have a chance to see this yarn soon.

  20. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this interview – how wonderful to discover all the facets of TITUS. What a well conceived and beautiful yarn; and what a lovely job John Arbon has done of spinning it to finest advantage. I particularly enjoyed learning about this yarn’s link to historic Alpaca textiles, and to Saltaire. Thanks for putting this piece together!

  21. Really interesting. Can’t wait to see the dyed Titus and mystified but intrigued by your pussy willow teaser. Thanks for a great post.

  22. Amazing post!! I hope I can find Titus on this side of the Pond. Will look right now. Thanks so much for sharing. Do you jnoiw what the percentage of BFL and Wensleydale is?

leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 6,206 other followers

%d bloggers like this: