Part One described the rather special Merino, Merino cross and Romney wool making a third of the blend. We have also, of course, included around 60kg of Shetland and 80kg of Blue-faced Leicester. Both are firm favourites with our Blacker Yarns customers, for softness and soft natural colours of Shetland and for pearly drape from Blue-faced Leicester. So these have been part of most of our birthday yarns.
The Shetland we have used is pale and mid grey, dark grey, dark brown and brown and comes from the flocks of Jenni Frost, Dodie Huxter, Pauline Dixon, Lisa Puddy, Antonia Tuckett, Verity Tuckwood, Trish Waldron and Lyn Woodger. The coloured Blue-faced Leicester is from Sue Blacker and Richard Ridout while the white is from Richard Ridout, John Shippam, Richard Turner and Clare Robson.
This composition is typical – with 60kg from 8 flocks and 80kg from 4 flocks – Shetland flocks are smaller and more specialised while Blue-faced are often larger and also associated with breeding rams for crossing. So, all together, we have some 20 flocks supplying the fibre for Cornish Garden – from right across the country as ever. This is what we love to achieve in these one-off limited editions and while we have less than the 10 breeds used for the original Cornish Tin, we have still managed six.
There is then an added special ingredient: recycled noils. Noils are the short fibre removed from batches of yarn by combing, as part of the preparation for worsted spun yarns. We have traditionally used woollen spun yarns for our Birthday limited editions, which gives us the chance to put back some noils which would otherwise go off to Yorkshire for recycling. We need to select the noils, to avoid those contaminated with vegetable matter or coarser fibres, which is the other purpose of combing. Noils are also “neppy”, with little tangles or lumps, so this ingredient adds some varied softness and nubbly texture to the yarn. We selected white so that they would show up a bit more amongst the naturally coloured wool.
We have had the idea for a while of using recycled fibre from the mill and indeed the fabric we use to cover our tables at shows is made entirely of card waste spun into yarn and then woven by Curlew Weavers for us. We have also in the past made thick fluffy throws in mixed grey waste. So we are planning more of this and noils can also be a more sustainable and less problematic way of adding texture to a yarn than the ahimsa silk cocoons we used for our Samite blend – so watch out for more of this in the future.