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Knitting with British wool

British Wool grading practices

At British Wool, we receive and grade wool from all over the UK. From more than 60 breeds which is graded at our depots into over 120 different grades!

Each breed of sheep produces its own distinct wool quality, each breed having its own story to tell. Our grading systems grades wool based upon both its style and characteristics. These include the staple length, crimp, fineness (micron) and handle and lustre (sheen). Each grade number falls into six main groups: Fine, Medium, Cross, Lustre, Hill and Mountain.

In addition, we separate a number of speciality breed wools with distinct characteristics. Including; Dorset, Jacob, Masham, Teeswater/Wensleydale, Lincoln, Shetland, Exmoor Horn, Hebridean and Herdwick.

Individual fleece are hand graded by an experienced wool grader (each having 3-5 years training). Judging the fleeces quality on a range of characteristics such as whether the wool is from a Hogg (first time sheared) or a Ewe, colour, staple strength, uniformity, kemp, grey fibre and cotts (whether the wool is matted).

Our grading systems aim to add value for both product and farmer

British Wool’s Top Picks

1. Bluefaced Leicester

BFL sheep produce the finest wool (26-26.5 micron) in the British clip. Resulting in a golden, creamy, soft and silky wool perfect for next to skin garments including children’s wear. Due to its fine crimp, it is also a very dense wool. So despite its softness it is reasonably hard wearing too – the best of both!

2. Ryeland

Ryeland yarns are short, resilient and stretchy giving them good insulating properties perfect for knitwear and blankets. Undyed yarns come from both white and coloured Ryeland varieties. The coloured yarn are particularly attractive and makes beautiful heathered brown knitwear. Because Ryeland wool does not felt easily, it retains the stitch definition in cabled and textured garments very well.

3. Jacob

Jacob sheep have a very distinctive multi-coloured, spotted fleece. Which when blended can create anything from blue-brown, to mauve-black and creamy white. Jacob fleece is of medium thickness and so is produced in a versatile range of yarns but is often not produced in lace weight. Its springy quality makes it perfect for a chunky shawl or pair of winter socks.

Benefits of using British wool

1. Colour

Here in the UK, lots of native breeds are naturally coloured in beautiful hues of creams, blacks and browns and greys. Wool can also be dyed and has a good affinity to acid and natural dyes. The use of a lustrous breed can help exaggerate a bright, glossy yarn finish.

2. Elasticity

Wool fibre has a natural elasticity. It can be compressed up to 20,000 times before breaking and its superior resilience means it returns back into its original shape every time. This elasticity makes for great garment drape as well as being nice and sturdy to knit and crochet with.

3. Breathable – keeps you warm, keeps you cool

Unlike synthetic fibres which can leave you feeling hot and sweaty (as well as statically charged!), wool fibres actively reacts to changes in body temperature, helping the wearer stay warm AND stay cool.

4. Odour and stain resistant

Wool absorbs moisture which means sweat can be wicked away from the body which is later released during washing. Wool also has a natural protective outer layer that helps prevent stains from being absorbed and tends not to generate static and therefore attracts less dust particles.

5. Sustainable

British wool is 100% natural, biodegradable and also completely renewable. The advantages of buying British are numerous- it helps us reduce our carbon footprint, boosts agriculture and supports our local economy.

Our licensed British Wool yarn producers include: McIntosh, Woolyknit & West Yorkshire Spinners all of which can be found on our online shop: www.britishwool.org.uk/shop