About Orkney Wool
Orkney Wool pure Texel knitting yarn has been designed by myself, Jane Cooper, and spun and dyed for me by the Natural Fibre Company.
Soon after moving to Orkney I noticed that the fleece up here seemed to be thicker, with finer fibres, compared to the same breeds I was familiar with from England. Possibly the result of all the rain and strong winds the sheep have to endure outside. Orkney has the climate and conditions to grow grass and so top quality grass-fed beef and lamb. While we cherish our unique North Ronaldsay sheep, the farming industry uses commercial pure and cross breeds.
When I started knitting over 50 years ago it was easy to buy British wool yarn that would last for decades. My husband has a sweater, knitted by his aunt in the early 1970's and still worn regularly.
As a spinner I was familiar with Texel fleece and the lovely yarns I could spin from it. With Texel being such common breed of sheep in the UK, I was surprised that I couldn't find Texel knitting yarn to buy. So I sourced a large flock of pure Texel sheep in Orkney, at Veltigar Farm and I then hand-spun and sent to Natural Fibre Company the woollen and worsted-spun samples, plus knitted samples, to test how different yarns worked for textured knitting and then the discussions started.
Texel is a very versatile wool with a lot of natural loft so we had a number of options. In the end we settled on a woollen spun yarn with an extra combing in the preparation to increase the 'soft' feel of the final yarn. Every extra process adds to the cost of producing the yarn, but I think we got the balance about right.
The Aran is a 4-plied yarn and the DK has 3 plies. For the 4-ply weight yarn, which has 2 plies, I wanted to increase durability for those people knitting socks. Texel fibre has properties to make it suitable for socks but the mill has slightly increased the amount of twist in the yarn to enhance durability while still giving the yarn a lovely handle when used for knitting other items.
My objective was to create a knitting yarn that would be soft enough for any purpose, be durable, give good definition to texture and cables, create a firm fabric that retained elasticity, be resistant to pilling and be enjoyable to knit. If I'm spending tens of hours, or more, knitting a sweater I want to enjoy the knitting process and to still have the sweater looking good after many years of wear.
I also wanted the yarn to be in solid colours but with a 'natural' look about the yarn. A black Texel sheep in the flock provided the dark fleece that, when blended with the white fleeces, gives that special 'wool' look to the yarn. The colours were inspired by Orkney itself.
To test the durability of the yarn I knitted a sweater which I then wore continuously for a month. You can read more about this experience on the Wovember website