We are so excited to introduce a brand new yarn company in the shop. You all got a preview of Blacker Yarns with the limited edition Cornish Tin that flew out the door. Now we have three of their lines in stock more permanently. We have Lyonesse (a linen/Falkland wool blend), Blacker Swan (Falkland/Shetland Wool), and Westcountry Tweed (British wool). The mill is based in Cornwall, and deals exclusively with British wool companies. This fits in perfectly with our mandate for ethically and environmentally friendly yarns, and local as well!

Sue Blacker, owner of Blacker Yarns and their parent mill The Natural Fibre Company was gracious to answer a few questions to help us all get to know their yarns better.

lyonesse_instaHow do you think that Blacker Yarns fits in with the KWA ethos (environmentally and ethically friendly)?

I think we fit very well!  Our whole approach is based on our values, which we apply to all our work spinning for others as The Natural Fibre Company and also in making Blacker Yarns.  So we try to give value for money, develop long-term trusting partnerships with customers and suppliers and limit our impact on the environment.  We lay out ouf values on our website, at http://www.blackeryarns.co.uk/about/our-values

What is the most important thing to you when you are choosing a new yarn/fibre to introduce into your company? What sort of process do you go through?

We start from two ends and hope to meet in the middle and the yarn has to be lovely!  We will be looking for the very best quality fibre we can find, and known provenance with continuity of supply, while at the same time seeking a single breed or a blend for which we think there will be some demand, which does not conflict with any of our values, which fits with and complements our existing ranges and which is a bit different from what everyone else is offering!  Simple, really!!

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The Natural Fibre Company is your mill, and Blacker Yarns is the yarn company. Can you tell us a bit more about the relationship between these two companies?

The Natural Fibre Company was there first, and has a wide range of customers across the UK and Europe, working from as little as 10kg up to around a tonne per batch.  Blacker Yarns, in some senses, is just another customer!  Blacker Yarns has the opportunity to promote British wool, made in Britain, to a wider public than can be reached by the smaller and specialised local breeders who are the main customer base of The Natural Fibre Company.  The experience of each side of the business does help the other: so Blacker Yarns' knowledge of the yarn, knitting and crochet markets can help The Natural Fibre Company advise its customers on marketing their yarns while The Natural Fibre Company has experience and expertise in spinning an enormously varied range of fibre types.

You work a lot with smaller sheep farmers and heritage breeds. Do you have your own sheep? What does it mean to your business to work with wool on a breed to breed basis?

I do have my own sheep and they came before the mill!  I started with sheep in the 1990's and was originally a customer of The Natural Fibre Company, taking it over when the previous owners retired.  It is incredibly important to us as a business to know and understand sheep, and to know people with goats and alpacas as well ... we know if there has been disease or bad weather, or a really good season for lambs, or if the price of meat or feed is rising or falling.  This helps us understand what it is to grow good quality fibre and to know the differences between the fibre produced by different animals - each has its most appropriate end use so we can help ensure none is wasted and the best value is added to each type.

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The 10th anniversary yarn Cornish Tin went down a storm and sold out UK wide in a week! Do you have plans for more limited edition yarns in the future?

Aha!  That would be telling, though I think you can probably assume we felt it was a very worthwhile adventure!  So we may well think about something for our eleventh birthday.  Meanwhile, all of our British Breeds yarns are limited editions and we will in future be able to give the provenance and dates, just like fine wines!

Are you a process or a product knitter?

A bit of both really ... I feel that the design is integral to the item being made - so the way in which it is worked, how it looks and feels, will also determine what the item is - I would work differently on a hat than a jacket, than a shawl, in terms of texture, colours, style, etc.

westcountry_instaWhat’s your current knitting project?

Well, I'm sort of between things right now and doing some swatching - I have two different jacket/cardigans in mind, which have been taking imaginary shape for a while, so will soon be ready to begin to materialise.  Like many people, having just completed a design which is about to be published, I'm still trudging through the tech editing as well!