Thankyou for your comments on the last post. When I settled on this new venture, I felt it was important to be able to show you some of the usually hidden processes behind yarn production, so I’m glad you are finding it interesting! I thought you might also like to know a little bit more about the decisions behind my yarn’s development, and who I chose to work with.

hose3

(Tom’s kilt hose show off some of Buachaille’s characteristics: the yarn is smooth, yet springy; durable yet soft, and with great stitch definition)

How exactly does one go about developing a yarn? I know what kinds of yarns I like, and what I love to knit with, as I’m sure every knitter does. As you will no doubt be aware, I like sheepy, characterful yarns best of all, and I have some knowledge of how different preparation and spinning techniques can get the best out of different fleece types and wool. I also like to work with a product whose origins I can trace. Knowing what one likes is one thing, but manufacturing it is quite another. This was a big step, and I knew I wanted to work on developing my yarn with someone I liked and trusted. I also knew that person was Adam Curtis. I met Adam and his family through our Shetland connections. They know more about wool than anyone I know, and Adam has a particular talent for developing beautiful and interesting wool products: things that really showcase the best that British wool can be. His family were kind enough to invite me to represent hand knitting and design at this event a few years ago, and, from our opposite ends of the industry, we’ve always regarded each other with mutual respect. In the UK, most raw wool is sold at auction through the British Wool Marketing Board, and the vast majority of it is purchased by merchants such as Curtis Wools. They are a well-regarded Yorkshire company whose commitment to wool is deep and long-standing, and whose resources and reach are pretty unparalleled. I knew they could find exactly the wool I wanted, and help me to develop it into an interesting new yarn.

Adam 03 So here’s what happened when I asked Adam to make some yarn for me.

KD: What were your initial thoughts when I approached you?
AC: I was delighted when you approached my father and I to develop a speciality yarn. Creating unique yarns for customers is one of the challenges we genuinely enjoy and pride ourselves on. With the enormous reserves of British and foreign wools held by Curtis Wool there are few requests that we can’t cater for.

KD: But even so, I came to you with quite a long list of things I wanted the yarn to be! What were your priorities?
AC: We knew you wanted a thoroughly British yarn with traceable links to Scotland, and the Scottish highlands. And we knew you wanted the yarn to be light and lofty. So we were looking for Scottish-origin fleeces with a natural crimp that would add loft, and which would spin up to create a classic hand that would just feel right to the knitter.

KD: How did you go about selecting the wool?
AC: We decided that a combination of wools from different breeds would be necessary to arrive at the perfect match for your requirements. We then sourced and chose a selection of the finest hand-sorted Scottish origin fleeces. These were then scoured at Haworth, combined together, and combed to create the perfect top. Combing your wool allowed us to remove any coarse fibres and noils [short fibres] in the fleece, and to create a blended top with maximum smoothness and softness. Combing and blending the wool really made it sing! As you know, the blend we’ve created for Buachaille is unique and exclusive to you. I was very pleased with the result.

naturalcombedtop
(Buachaille – natural combed top)

KD: so what happened then?
AC: Then I sent you a sample of the combed top for approval. You were just as pleased with it as I was, which was great! With the blended constituency of the combed top in place, we were then able to begin developing the two other natural shades you wanted to complement your dyed palette.

KD: Yes! As you know, Adam, I’m very pernickety about colours. . .
AC: Well, like all designers you knew what you wanted, and we had to get those natural shades just right.

naturalgreycombedtop
(Buachaille – natural silver-grey combed top)

KD: I just love the two other natural shades you’ve created – sheepy fleece colours really are my all-time favourites.
AC: Yes – and they sit really well with the dyed shades you created too. So after your tops were combed at Haworth, we had them worsted spun – a spinning technique which completely suits the wool type and its preparation – and we were then able to arrange for you to see your yarn being dyed. I think you are going to talk about that later?

KD: Yes, I certainly took lots of pictures that day! I am very happy with the yarn, and I know you are just as excited about Buachaille as I am!
AC: Yes indeed -its one of my favourite yarns and I’m really pleased with what we’ve achieved. I think we’ve managed to create a yarn that combines all of your requirements, and perhaps added a little bit more as well. Best of all, its a yarn with a heritage that can be traced from the hills and mountains of Scotland to the textile powerhouse that still exists in Yorkshire. Its a thoroughly British product, made entirely in the UK and inspired by some of the worlds most beautiful mountains, Buachaille Etive Mor and Beag!

KD: Thanks, Adam!

tomandadam
(Tom and Adam talk wool at Haworth Scouring)

We’ve designed seven distinctly Scottish shades for Buachaille, including four dyed shades to complement the three naturals that Adam created. In the next post I will talk a little about the inspiration behind each shade.

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52 thoughts on “meet the man who helped me make my yarn

  1. Thank you very much for the ongoing story of your new yarn. It looks beautiful and I am looking forward to being able to give some a home here in Canada. I am keen to read more detail about the colour options. I await your next installment with baited breath!

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  2. I am very excited to see your new yarn! I was in Scotland for two weeks this summer and was very disappointed in the lack of yarn shops in general. My sister-in-law that lives in Glasgow took me to Lewis’s Dept. Store which had a decent selection although not huge. We also found a shop, McAree Brothers in Stirling which did have a good selection and was quite large. We found a third shop in Oakham which was a wee hole in the wall stuffed with a lot of James Brett and King Cole. I think I was most surprised to learn that knitting and crochet is not a popular pastime right now and hence it’s very difficult to find a good selection of British made yarns.
    Your product sounds like it will be lovely and I’m really looking forward to using it.

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    1. Oh, that’s a shame as we do have some lovely independent yarn shops in Scotland. It did take me a while to realise when 3 new shops had sprung up in Edinburgh though! I suppose it is knowing where they are.

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  3. I’m finding all this fascinating! It really makes me even more appreciative of my lovely Shetland yarn as I’m knitting away on my Stevenson sweater and gauntlets. An Xmas present for my lovely daughter. Thanks!!

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  4. So now of course, Kate, you and Adam have gone and created a yarn that I will actually go outside my comfort zone to acquire: that being (1) new yarn instead of using up my stash; (2) on line in steadying of paying cash at my local yarn store; and ohmigosh, (3) internationally, which has its own risks and extra costs. but I WILL DO IT, because I love the look of Tom’s kilt hose, although I will have to settle for a female accessory since my darling husband won’t expose his beautiful (though non-Scottish) legs if his life depended on it.

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  5. Thank you for sharing (& firing us all up with) your enthusiasm for, and true love of, all things sheep/yarn based. We are so fortunate to have all your knowledge and advice to help us with our yarn choices. This look behind the scenes will make people feel even more connected to the beautiful things that they create. Even though I have a large stash of yarns already I’m waiting with bated breath to see the new yarns and to be able to buy and use them!

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  6. Last fall, i learned to spin and have been trying out wool of differrent breeds of sheep. I was not aware that there could be such difference in wool fiber of different breeds and even between the different layers and between wool of the same breed cut in fall or in spring . Following your process of producing your own yarn is therefor so fascinating and I would appreciate enormously if I could know which breeds are mixed in your yarn. Wish you all the best of luck, Kate, and waiting impatiently for the next message.

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  7. As others have mentioned, my hands started twitching as soon as I saw that lovely top. I would certainly purchase that for my own spinning as well as the yarn.

    These posts have been so beautiful, informative and inspiring (just like everything you write and produce). I can only thank you for giving us all this glimpse into the production and thought behind this yarn. Can’t wait to hold it in my hands.

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  8. Thank you for this interesting background! Like all others here I am waiting for the yarn with the beautiful name !

    Only one question remains:
    I have read about abuse of sheep during shearing – how can you influence this for me so important aspect of wool production ? Were you able to make the animal welfare a priority for you?
    Thank you very much !
    Inke

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  9. Will you be making your tops available to buy? As a spinner I would love to spin your blend and know something about the breeds within it.

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  10. I am very proud of what Kate and Adam have created. I have watched from the sidelines and seen the evolution from the greasy raw wool through to this rather special yarn and I can’t wait to see some patterns and garments made from it. That is the icing on the cake!
    Many thanks to everyone. It is what keeps us enthralled with our industry.

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  11. Okay, I can’t wait. I have to see it. You’ve done a fantastic job of creating suspense and hundreds of women have their credit cards laying by their computers. Please don’t make us wait any longer Kate!

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  12. Getting excited now! Hope you have produced enough for all of us to plunge our hands into! So looking forward Kate, what a fantastic brief. I looked for scottish yarn everywhere I went when I visited the highlands in July. I wanted some souvenir skeins. Found and bought lots of lovely hand dyed and coloured skeins, but not much that could be called highland yarn. Buachaille is going to be wonderful!

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  13. Congratulations on your new venture! Although i still have 23 kg of yarn i bought in Chile to get through, I cannot wait for your range :)

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  14. Delighted to receive your blog post today in my email box. It’s wonderful to hear all about the yarns upbringing plus your enthusiasm regarding its imminent release. Having just finished our family tree which links us to the Yorkshire and Scottish areas the yarn is becoming very meaningful. Thank you for sharing it journey. Sooooo looking forward to seeing the final product but from the look of Tom’s hose I don’t think any of us are going to be disappointed.

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  15. I really love these posts and the stories behind your yarn, it’s so good to hear about people who care so much about their work, and in the process make something that will be wonderful.

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  16. My goodness, this is seductive – 50 shades of anticipation.

    That silver grey top is just beautiful. I want to make a coat of that!

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  17. i appreciate so much the time you spend on writing such informative, insightful and at times personal blogs. It is such a breath of fresh air not be treated as just consumers. As crafts people/artists the provenance of our materials is paramount, for me it is an important element of the creative process. Thank you for sharing these fascinating details of your design process. As an artist, I always find sketchbooks/prep work so much more interesteing than the final outcome!!

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  18. Kate

    I love that we can travel a bit with you and even more thankful that you don’t mind doing it. I think we all some times take for granted, that the skein in hand is what’s most important. But there is always so much that goes into the making of that skein. I’m amassed that each one does not cost more! It is also nice to be able to explain to others about the Craft you love. Knitting is not just for Granny’s and hats and scarves aren’t the only things that we make. So on with the story, to the next chapter….The YARN!!!!
    Have a Wonderful Weekend and Happy Knitting to Ya’ll!

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  19. This is really fascinating. I don’t always think about what goes into the making of the yarn i knit up, but i’m always intrigued to find out what a intensive process it is. I’m looking forward to learning more & seeing the colors you’ve come up with.

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  20. I found the washing, cleaning, and top production especially interesting.
    Quite some years ago, I had a US-bred Corriedale fleece and I did not get it cleaned and washed properly—but I didn’t really know that a season or two later, when I found moths feasting in a carpet, in some winter coats, on skirts and sweaters upstairs and far from the fleece. eeek. It was awful. I’ve had better luck with tops produced by others. :-)

    Can you tell more about the combing of the yarn? For combing I have medium size combs with quite long, very sharply pointed teeth; these are for worsted yarns. And do produce rolls for that are perfect for hand-spinning worsted yarns. For “wool yarns”, we use cards to prepare fluffier yarns. — Oddly, I learned to spin on an old flax wheel; I spin fairly fine yarn—I can sew with it, embroider with it; too fine for knitting. Somehow I can’t make my fingers do soft fluffier yarn. Brain and fingers just don’t get it.

    I hope you have more to tell about the making. These are great posts

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  21. Kate, this is truely amazing! I am so happy for you that you live your dream and I also admire your knowledge, passion and connections. This will no doubt be a huge success!

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  22. I’m with Klina. Will you be selling top by the pound? Years ago before I found out where the sheep were I went to the mill close to me and bought giant 1 pound balls of lovely wool.

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  23. These posts are wonderful. I’ve been through one small-medium mill in Vermont but never anything like the one in your last post about scouring. It was very interesting to see the attention paid to reducing environmental impacts of the water used in the processes.

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  24. I am really enjoying learning more about the yarn production process. It is something we would never normally get to know. Thanks for sharing it all with us.

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  25. I agree with Mel. In my younger years I was a test driver for prototype cars and I was amazed at all the testing and how rigorous it was. I feel the same about your new adventure and love reading about it. Like the others, am anxiously awaiting my first skeins! Thanks Katie & Tom.

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  26. I can’t wait to be able to knit with your yarn! Unless it is a trade secret, can you tell us which Scottish sheep breeds you’re using in your yarn?

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    1. Nevermind! I just went back to read about the yarn and the blend is a trade secret! I know it will be great yarn because you are amazing!

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  27. seeing all that goes into the making of wool yarn certainly makes me feel more appreciative of all the hands and sheep/alpaca etc that contribute to that skein of wool. From the farmers who tend the animals to the processors like Haworth and then the spinners/dyers and the people like you and Tom who have a dream – WOW – this is really a labor of love. Can’t wait to see it launch and see the special designs you create for your new line.

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  28. These posts on your yarn birthing are truly a gift! Thank you so much for sharing it (and the people) with us. I cannot wait to fondle it. I hope you made a LOT of it – we are all rapt waiting …..

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