Tuesday 23 January 2018

Northumberland's Whistlebare Yarn & Daisy Snood Pattern Review

Why haven't I come across Whistlebare yarn before? It's right up A Woolly Yarn's street, producing yarn from British animals kept to the highest welfare standards, and is a family-run business.

On their farm in Northumberland Alice Elsworth, her husband and four sons keep Angora goats and Wensleydale sheep. The fleece is scoured, combed and spinned in Yorkshire then returned to the farm for dyeing. I tested Yeaving Bell, their 4ply 100g skein, in a barely-there grey called 'Willo' the Wisp', and knitted up their Daisy Scarf/Snood pattern that comes free with a yarn purchase.

On first impression this 80% mohair and 20% Wensleydale yarn looks delectable: a delightfully-nuanced pale grey that catches the light, wrapped in a squishy skein held together in a cute, cardboard label. When rolling the skein into a ball by hand I could feel the softness of the yarn and see its slight halo, collecting little tufts as I rolled. Yeavering Bell 4ply is delicate and can tangle easily but has a surprising toughness when pulled - no snapping here.

Here's Whistlebare's photo of their Daisy snood:

Image courtesy of Whistlebare

The pattern was fun to knit, the daisy stitch being challenging to knit yet not too difficult that it couldn't be knitted in front of the TV. It passed my EastEnders test! One 100g skein created a snood that can be wrapped around the neck twice. Knitted on 6.5mm circular needles you would think the pattern's lack of density would make it not very warm. Not so, for it certainly keeps my neck cosy on cold days.

Here's a snapshot of the delicacy of the stitches in my version:

Yeavering Bell costs £18.50 per skein plus P&P. It's available in 4ply, DK and Aran weight, in full skein or mini skein lengths. There are 21 colours to choose from: think natural, pretty and bright.

Whistlebare also sells two other yarns I've yet to test: Cuthbert's Sock, 80% mohair and 20% Wensleydale, and Cheviot Blue in 4ply and DK weight, a blend of South Country Cheviot and Blue Faced Leicester.

I asked Alice to tell us a bit more about her business.

Q: How did Whistlebare come about?

A: Whistlebare is a small (around 60 acres) very beautiful farm in North Northumberland, a stone's throw from the beach in one direction and the fabulous Cheviot hills in the other. We moved here in 2004 bringing our small herds of Aberdeen Angus Cattle and Large Black Pigs with us. These we farmed to organic standards until 2012 when a variety of factors converged to mean we needed to find a new direction. In that time I had learned to crochet and was picking up knitting needles again after a 25-year break. I was loving the c creativity and the peace induced by an evening's crafting. It was when I started to visit some of the fantastic yarn festivals around, notably the very first Edinburgh Yarn Festival, that the idea of producing our own, British, local, ethical yarn began to take root.

Q. How did you choose the fleeces to use?

A: As a teenager I had spent my holidays helping my Aunt on her goat farm in Cornwall. She had a few Angora Goats and I had always loved them and the amazing lustrous mohair they produce. After a lot of investigation and soul searching I was delighted when Angora Goats appeared to be the way forward. Our first nine Angora Goats arrived in 2013 to great excitement. I wasn't the only one who was excited, our four sons, then aged six to 11 years-old, were very keen to get involved. My husband and I decided that this was an opportunity for the boys to begin their own flock of sheep. Again, much research ensued. Wensleydales with their beautiful long locks of high lustre wool, as well as being a rare breed from my husband's native Yorkshire, seemed to be the perfect compliment to our gats. The boys' first three ewes arrived, in lamb, at the beginning of 2014.

Q. Tell me what makes your yarn ranges special.

A: Yeavering Bel lis a unique yarn ... it is soft and sleek with rich colour and very high lustre. Mohair is a hollow fibre so is very insulating whilst being very lightweight. The addition of Wensleydale, which is a much heavier robust fibre, gives the mohair enough weight to drape beautifully. Another of mohair's characteristics is that it has the highest rub test of all natural fibres so, when knitting with Yeavering Bell you can be sure that your project will last for years.

Our other mohair and Wensleydale yarn is Cuthbert's Sock. It is entirely natural fibre, 80% kid mohair and 20% Wensleydale wool spun tightly to be robust. Mohair is the perfect sock fibre ... the fibres themselves have very few scales and what scales there are lie smoothly, as a result bacteria has nowhere to cling on and so mohair socks don't smell!

Q. Where do you get your colour inspiration from?

A: Within a very few miles of Whistlebare we have dunes, beaches, the sea, castles, moorland and forestry: the inspiration for colour is all around us and endless. When planning a new palette I have to focus on a theme or particular location as the possibilities can be overwhelming otherwise. I try very hard to produce groups of colours that work well together and are truly wearable as well as being eye catching in your stash!


  1. I can't get over how gossamer-fine and airy those knits are - like they've been knitted by elves!

  2. Yes, I love them! Such a pleasure to wear.


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