Marie Wallin and her British Breeds Wool

Posted on April 26 2021

It has been the most amazing weather for the past week and I have enjoyed knitting in the garden ignoring all the other tasks I really should have been doing. 

During lockdown, aside from my family, I probably spent most of my time in the company of 'Fruity Knitting' with its lovely hosts, Andrew and Andrea. I have enjoyed slowly working my way through the series ( I am now up to Episode 75) whilst sitting knitting and doing various tasks in my studio. I have mentioned their podcasts in earlier newsletters and I have thoroughly enjoyed listening to their interviews with designers from all over the world, watching their projects unfold, totally empathising with Andrea as she rips out knitting to ensure perfection and watching Andrew grow in confidence as a knitter himself.  

It was only by accident that I watched a more recent episode over Easter to discover that Andrew had been diagnosed with a brain tumour last October. Even worse news followed this week when, along with other patreons, I received the devastating email from Andrea informing us that Andrew had died. Even though I have never met the family, I was incredibly upset for Andrea and her daughter, Madeleine. As a couple, Andrew and Andrea had a wonderful, natural rapport together which came across so well in their podcast. Apparently, Andrew wants Andrea to continue 'Fruity Knitting' in the future but, whatever she decides, it would be great to be able to offer support at such a difficult time.  If anyone else has enjoyed watching the series then this might be a good time to subscribe to the podcast as a patreon.

One of Andrea's favourite designers is Marie Wallin and I am delighted to say that I have now received all twenty colours of Marie's fabulous British Breeds yarn. Marie has enjoyed a thirty year career in knitwear design and is probably remembered by many of us as the Head Designer at Rowan. She has been an independent designer now for over 5 years and it has been a natural progression to create her own branded yarns. She is passionate about natural fibres and, like Erika Knight, is particularly keen to support the British wool industry. As knitters, we can help support communities through the yarn we purchase and so I am thrilled to be adding her yarn to my stock.

British Breeds took 2 years to develop into the beautiful, soft, bouncy 4 ply yarn that it is today. It is now available in a palette of 20 colours which work beautifully together in Fair Isle designs or as stand alone colours. Each 25g ball has been worsted spun by John Arbon in Devon and is made from 4 different breeds of British sheep, each of which gives the yarn its special characteristic:
  • Bluefaced Leicester adds the beautiful softness
  • Exmoor Horn adds the softness too but with its white fleece, it adds a 'cleanness' to the blended tops enabling more successful dyeing
  • Wensleydale adds the strength and, finally,
  • Zwarbles adds the bounce.
Once spun, the yarn is sent to Edward Hill's in Bradford (who also spun and balled our own, The Knitter's Yarn No.1 and No.2 lambswool)  where it is steam relaxed and balled into 25g balls. The steam finishing opens up the yarn to create the full, light appearance and handle. 

Marie's pattern collection  'Gentle' uses her British Breeds wool and has a wonderful selection of garments. Inspired by traditional Fair Isle patterns and Moorish designs there is something for everyone. The book is an incentive and inspiration to continue knitting throughout the summer evenings to ensure that projects will be ready to be worn come Autumn. 


Beech by Marie Wallin from 'Gentle'
Beech by Marie Wallin from 'Gentle'
Beech is on my 'to-do' list with its interesting construction. The bottom, cabled panel is worked first and then stitches picked up along the edge to knit the main body. 


Bramble Fair Isle sweater by Marie Wallin
Bramble is a lovely design inspired by Moorish tiles
from 'Gentle' by Marie Wallin


Mistletoe tam from 'Gentle' by Marie Wallin
Mistletoe Tam from 'Gentle' by Marie Wallin
For anyone new to Fair Isle knitting or needing a refresher project, this lovely tam or Poppy scarf are both knitted in the round and would make beautiful gifts to yourself or loved ones.


Poppy Scarf from 'Gentle' by Marie Wallin
Poppy Scarf from 'Gentle' by Marie Wallin


There are eleven knitting patterns and one crochet sweater in the 'Gentle' collection making this publication incredible value for money at just £19.00. I have several designs on my wish list at the present time which will encourage me to revisit Fair Isle knitting and possibly steeking. Alice Starmore has some wonderful tutorials on stranded knitting on her website for beginners and those revisiting the technique.


Orla a crochet sweater from 'Gentle' by Marie Wallin
Orla a crochet sweater from 'Gentle' by Marie Wallin

The 1st European Wool Day took place on Facebook Live on the morning of April 9th and was recorded in two parts. It was a fantastic journey (if at times technically chaotic!) showing various projects throughout Europe to try to sustain this wonderful natural resource and the importance of not losing our natural fibre industry to synthetics. The message was simple: 'Wool was born to be loved'.  I have written a short blog describing all the wonderful properties of wool for those of you who are interested. 
As a yarn retailer I am keen to support the natural fibre industry and the communities associated with it. For this reason, I am delighted to be a stockist of Marie Wallin's British Breeds and I have also just taken my first delivery of yarn from another wonderful company, mYak, whose story I will be telling in my next newsletter.

Stay safe and well as we ease out of lockdown. 

Happy Knitting!

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