I’m delighted to announce The Orchard Collection. Four naturally dyed colours on a lace weight base from a single flock of Wensleydale sheep.
Sourced from The Nude Ewe, the yarn for this project comes from sheep grazing a Damson orchard on the Bedfordshire/Buckinghamshire border, hence the name of the collection. The Nude Ewe is a not-for-profit community interest company that works with the owners of heritage breed flocks, giving back the profits from yarn sales to help keep the sheep grazing our beautiful countryside. Erika who owns the flock, used her first cheque from The Nude Ewe to fund a conservation workshop which discovered an incredibly rare beetle found only in the south-west of England and Kent. Here’s one of this year’s lambs, born in May. (Image Copyright Erika Pratt)
Erika’s flock of 25 Wensleydale ewes and lambs run with her husband’s commercial flock of breeding ewes. Her first sheep were a birthday present nearly 20 years ago. I asked Erika how the Wensleydale’s work in the environment of the Damson orchard:
“The orchard is part of the farm and although the fruit has no commercial value any longer we love it and dont want to see it disappear totally – it is part of our local heritage. It looks beautiful, still bears us fruit, hosts a lovely rare beetle, many woodpeckers and other bird species and diversifies our otherwise grass dominated farm. Other livestock would damage the old trees and the trees in turn offer shade for the grazing sheep.”
Erika has the Wensleydale’s shorn once a year, I asked if she does anything special to look after the longwool fleeces whilst they are still on the sheep (the staple length can be 8 – 12 inches) and how working with The Nude Ewe has benefited the farm and flock:
“No, I would prefer to keep them away from brambles and mud but they go where the grass is in reality! Working with The Nude Ewe has definitely helped me to understand the beauty of the product and given the Wensleydale fleeces value they didn’t previously have. We have now been able to invest in small amounts of suitable conservation management and advice for the orchard and it’s made me more interested in the whole cycle.”
So thank you to Erika, the sheep and The Nude Ewe for this beautiful yarn. Processed at The Natural Fibre Company the yarn is 100% Wensleydale and is worsted spun to maintain the gorgeous sheen of the longwool. There’s 100g and approximately 580m per skein. As well as the almost silk-looking sheen, there’s a subtle mohair-like halo, so the yarn will trap lots of air making it snuggly and warm.
I’ve created four colours for the collection, each named after an orchard fruit. We have Damson Delight, Blackcurrant Crush, Blueberry Blush and Greengage Glut. Here they are:
I’ll talk about more about the yarn characteristics, show the test swatches and make some pattern suggestions in the next few days. In the meantime, the Orchard Collection is available now at Sylvan Tiger Yarn on Etsy.