Cotton Zip Pouches

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Today I’ll be printing up more of these bags ready for our next update on 25th January.

I talk a lot about our yarns and where the wool comes from and is processed – so I thought I’d do the same for these bags.

We carry two types of bags in the shop. The zip pouches  and tote bags come to us ready made, while the drawstring and rolltop bags are made from scratch by myself or the lovely Carol who lives locally. I’ll talk more about these bags soon, but today is about the zip pouch bags.

We sometimes get asked why we buy ready made bags rather than making them from scratch – and that’s an easy question to answer. We want to be able to offer bags for different budgets, and buying ready made bags is the best way for us to achieve this. These bags are made on a a huge scale which offers several economies. The other big factor in price is that our bags are made in India where wages are lower.

So how do we keep it ethical?

We source our bags though a UK company which has committed to only selling FairTrade bags. For a bag to carry the Cotton FAIRTRADE Certification Mark the cotton farmers must meet Fairtrade Standards. The production, from the growing and processing of the cotton to the manufacturing of the bag has to be compliant with the Fairtrade Cotton Standard.

The company makes regular visits to the factory to ensure that working conditions are maintained. I can’t easily (or practically) do that, so this is the best option for us. We’d love to use only Fairtrade Organic cotton bags, but the raw materials vary greatly in availability and price so it’s something that we’ll keep working towards.

When the bags arrive with us that’s when I get to start printing. Screen printing can be a chemical nightmare and there’s the potential to use all sorts of toxic gloop at every stage from making the screens to printing to cleaning the screens afterwards.

We’ve found green versions of emulsion (used for making the screens) and screen strip (used for taking everything off the screen once you don’t need it any more). We try to find designs which we’ll keep using, so each screen can be used multiple times – and that reduces the amount of chemicals and water we use.

One issue for us when we started screen printing was ink – it’s a fact of screen printing life that some of your ink is going to end up being washed down the drain. We use Permaset which are approved by the Soil Association – and they’re easy to clean up with washing up liquid. The inks also last well – they don’t have that plastic feeling that you can find on t-shirts, so your bags will stay looking good for a long time. To help ensure this we heat set all of our prints as this means that they’ll wear much better.

We make the tags which go on our bags from poplar plywood which is screen printed on one side and laser etched on the other. Laser cutting is a brilliant way of making use of every bit of a sheet of wood as it’s very precise. We use wood which is covered by the FCS scheme that helps to protect forests.

So that’s the lowdown on our cotton bags.

Find them here.

 

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Making the Perfect Sock Yarn

There’s been a recent surge in customers asking for sock yarns which don’t contain nylon.

Our Wensleydale Shetland 4ply works well for this – it’s a tightly spun yarn and the combination of long fibre length from the Wensleydale and tooth from the Shetland means it stands up well to the demands placed on socks. The yarn isn’t superwash treated, and that’s a process that I like to avoid unless there’s a good reason to use it.

Britsock is a brilliant yarn for socks – but it contains nylon. If we left the nylon out and substituted another wool we’d have a yarn that wasn’t structurally sound for socks. There’s Wensleydale in there – but there’s also BFL and alpaca and these shorter, softer fibers need something else to make a yarn which holds up well.

I understand the move away from nylon – there’s been masses of media coverage recently which would (and should) make all of us think twice about the plastic we use.

It’s a tough one for us – I’d love to have no nylon in any of our yarns, but I don’t believe I’d be offering you the best product for what you want to make. We used to sell a high twist pure BFL which was meant to be ideal for socks – and customer feedback suggested it wore out too quickly. That doesn’t work for me.

Sometimes it’s infuriating. We had a lengthy conversation with an experienced knitter at Yarndale who was adamant that our One Farm Yarn would make perfect socks. At this point she hadn’t seen or felt the yarn but she knew that I was wrong in saying it wasn’t meant for socks.

One Farm Yarn is made form 100% wool that isn’t superwash treated. It’s spun to be a balanced yarn and to show off the softness of the BFL. The more twist put into a yarn when it’s spun the firmer it will feel. One Farm Yarn is the most gorgeous yarn for shawls and hats, and the lofty structure makes it good at trapping air and keeping you warm. It’s a terrible sock yarn. The softer spin means the yarn is less hard wearing. The two sheep blends (BFL and North Country Mule) were picked for their soft handle and luster, not to be hard wearing. This is a yarn which would felt in socks and wear out quickly.

You can make any yarn more suitable for socks by being willing to knit it on really tiny knitting pins. My standard pins for sock yarn are 2mm – but if I wanted to make something is a non sock yarn I’d be working with 1.5mm or even 1.25mm needles and more stitches. Creating a tighter, denser fabric reduces friction (if the fabric is dense the stitches move less) and that gives you better wear. But you’ll be putting in a lot more effort to make socks which are likely to wear out sooner.

There are always exceptions – I’ve knitted socks in Two Flocks yarn which I wear with slippers at home. They’re wonderfully toasty, and the yarn stands up well to that lighter level of wear. I used 2.75mm needles for these, and I’ve got  couple of pairs which I wear lots. I wouldn’t expect them to do so well if I wore them to the workshop under boots.  I’m pretty much always on my feet there and I walk a lot over the course of a day as I go between dye pots, skein winder, screen printing and whatever else I’m up to.

As someone who sells yarn for a living I could see the constant need for more yarn as a good thing – but I don’t. There’s a lot of work goes into hand knit socks and I think they deserve a long life. Producing knitting yarn has environmental costs – so buying the right yarn for the job reduces those.

That said, we’ve been working with Laxtons to produce what just might be the perfect non nylon sock yarn. We’re using a blend of BFL and mohair – the mohair will add strength and structure and both fibers will be comfortable next to your skin. We made the decision to use BFL which has been superwash treated – and we’ve gone that route for a couple of reasons.

We wanted a yarn which was suitable for more gentle skins – and the superwash process which removes the hooks from the yarn fibers can help with that. If you remember that you need heat and moisture to make felt then socks are subjected to pretty much perfect conditions for that every time they’re worn. So opting for superwash treated yarn removes that possibility. We wanted a yarn which was ideal for gift knitting – and we hear that while you might be happy to hand wash your cherished socks (and it’s the best way) that isn’t always how they’re going to be treated.

All the the fibers in the new yarn come from UK flocks and have been processed in the UK. This means that the factory carrying out the superwash process has to comply with strict legislation about the chemicals used and how waste is disposed of. If you’re buying yarn where the fiber is processed elsewhere you don’t always have that same reassurance.

So it’s all about compromise. The new yarn should be arriving with us this week, and I’m looking forward to getting the first skeins into dye baths.

 

 

 

 

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2018 Charities

We’ve chosen to support 2 charities in 2018.

Refuge works to safeguard against domestic violence.

Shelter supports people struggling with bad housing and homelessness. They say “we campaign to make sure that, one day, no one will have to turn to us for help” – and that’s an amazing thing to aim for.

We’ll be dyeing some special colourways, printing some original bags and donating 50% of everything sold through the sale page – and come November we’ll be celebrating white Friday again.

Thank you

Joy & Bobbie

 

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Shop Update 11.01.18

Our first shop update of the year has lots of good things.

There are new One Farm Yarn colours.

 

In case you missed them yesterday we’ll also have One Farm Yarn mini skein sets.

There are mini skein sets in BFL and nylon in all four of the printer ink colourways.

 

Our new stitch markers are ready.

Finally we’re adding 4 kilt pin badges to the shop. These are perfect for decorating yourself or a project bag.

The shop update will take place at 1900 UK time on Thursday 11th January. If you’re browsing before then you won’t see the items listed above – they’ll show up at 1900.

 

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Update Highlight

When the first skeins of One Farm Yarn arrived from Laxtons it would be fair to say that I fell in love. Watching skeins emerge from the dye pot is a real treat – this stuff dyed like a dream.

So it was only a matter of time before we played even more with the colours to make mini skein sets.

These sets are 5 x 20 gram skeins – so 100 grams and 400 meters in total. That makes them perfect for colourwork, and they’ll make a lovely shawl.

We have five colourways in tomorrow’s update.

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Black Fades

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Brown Fades

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Blue Fades

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Greens

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Circus

Each set costs £20 ( or £16.67 ex VAT).

We’ll be sharing the details about the rest of the yarns in the Thursday update tomorrow.

Find out more about One Farm Yarn here

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2018 – what’s new?

What’s new? Lots of things.

Lots of lovely new things.

Yarn first – we’ll be launching two new yarns in the next couple of months.

The first will be a no nylon sock yarn spun from superwash BFL and mohair. I’ll be blogging more about why we’ve gone for that particular combination soon.

The second new yarn is a retake on Britsilk – we had a batch spun, everyone loved it and the name confused lots of people who thought it should be a sock yarn. It wasn’t. Batch one was spun by the lovely John and Juliet Arbon – and it meant that we used some of our production slots for Britsock.

So batch 2 is different. It won’t be called Britsilk – so there should be less confusion. It’s a wool, alpaca and silk blend which is being spun with shawls and garments in mind. Given this the fiber blend will change a little – instead of adding Wensleydale for strength we’re having extra BFL for an even lovelier handle. We’re having this batch spun by Laxtons in Yorkshire, so we’re thinking of a new name which recognises this.

As we’ve freed up production slots with John Arbon we finally have plenty of Britsock- and that means I can start playing with lots of new colour wheels.

We’ve sold stitch markers for years, and we’ll be adding some new designs to the shop in time for this Thursday’s shop update.

The stitch markers are in sets and come in a handy little tin – perfect for popping in your bag.

 

Finally for now there will be a new bag design – based on the roll top design and made from waterproof duck canvas. The duck canvas is manufactured in the UK.

Lots of good things.

2018 is going to be a good year.

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January Club Roundup

By now the January clubs should all have arrived (an yes, I’m crossing my fingers and thinking about the Canadian post as I type this)

There are 3 club options for 2018.

The sock club patterns are all designed by Clare Devine. For January we have Bend and Fold.

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Sock photo Copyright Clare Devine

These might be my dream socks – I love socks where each sock is different yet they make a perfect pair, and I adore zig zag cables.

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The socks are knitted in Lepidolite.

The shawl club pattern for January is another Clare Devine creation – Stratified

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Shawl photo Copyright Kate O’Sullivan (A Playful Day)

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To keep life easy we’ve used the pattern names for the yarn bundles too – so this is the Stratified mini skein set.

Finally there’s the self striping sock yarn club which is rainbow inspired.

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This is Steps of the Rainbow Part 1

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If you’ve fallen in love with the January patterns and yarns you’ll be able to buy them from the 1st of April – the patterns will be available direct from Clare Devine.

If you’d like to receive the March clubs you can sign up here.

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