Single-flock yarns have been a particular passion of mine from the moment I held a skein of yarn that was gifted to me by my sister;
'It's from this little goat farm near to where we were staying, it originally started as a rescue farm, and now they've grown their flock. The wool comes from each of the goats, and this skein is from one called Minnie!'
Up until then, I'd only bought yarn based on what colour I liked, but all I know was with that story and the feel of Minnie's curly locks between my fingers, I was sold. I'd been transported, and it felt as if I were holding a little piece of the life they shared there on that goat farm.
I know, I'm a sucker for a good story and a goat with a super cute name, but it goes beyond that. When it comes to single-flock yarns, what you often find behind the finished product are truly passionate individuals. They are deeply committed to something beyond just selling yarn and are genuinely aware of the impact they have on the land and animals around them
But What Is It?
I know, I'm getting ahead of myself. What is single-flock yarn? It is yarn spun from the fleece of a single flock. This flock can belong to the yarn producer themselves, or they may work closely with shepherds and purchase the fleece directly from them. They then have the fleece processed and spun into yarn.
It is a slow and mindful process. Once one batch of yarn is gone, you can't go to the store to purchase more; you have to wait for the next shearing and start the process all over again. This brings obvious restrictions when it comes to selling yarn commercially; keeping enough supply for the demand is particularly tricky. But what comes with it is a deep connection to every facet of the yarn-making process.
Let's look at one of my favourite yarn producers; Louise from Southdown Yarns. I was lucky enough to be partnered with her for my first published pattern, Winterfold. Not only is her yarn stunning, but you can also get lost reading through all the information she shares on her website. Louise works with the shepherds of three different flocks of Southdown sheep, and something that I love is how she shares the slight differences in characteristics between the flocks. It's these details that, for me, make single-flock yarns so exciting!
'It seems to me that when you become interested in the provenance of a natural product you come to value every aspect of its creation and the contribution made by all those involved in its production. This is certainly true of all those who have supported us and purchased our wool. I love that our customers are interested in where our wool comes from and who shepherds the flocks from whence it hails.' - Louise (viaSouth Down Yarns website)
From A Desire To Reduce Waste
While Louise has shown that producing single-flock yarns can work on a commercial level, sometimes it can come not from a desire to create, but to reduce waste. Hooligan Yarns came about as a way to use the fleeces of the small flock at Manor Farm Charitable Trust, a charity based in the UK that provides lifelong sanctuary for livestock in need. After being shorn, the fleeces were often burned or thrown away, so they decided to use them, creating high welfare, single sheep artisan yarn.' You get a card with the sheep who's fleece you are knitting! All the proceeds from sales go back into their trust, helping to take care of the animal's who's wool you have on your needles
Would you like to explore more single-flock yarns? Check out these fibre folk: