Edinburgh Yarn Festival is a very dangerous place for a yarn-aholic and 2017 was no exception! Already laden with bags of unresisted temptation, I stumbled across Walcot Yarns. I think the stylish labelling on the subtle natural grey and white shades of their Opus 4ply first caught my eye, but it was the feel of this soft and lofty yarn that sold it to me: one squish and I was lost. One sight of the swatch of coloured shades (at that time yet to come) only made matters worse...
It was only later that I learnt a little of the story of the development of this yarn – a wonderfully soft blend of 70% Falklands Merino and 30% Baby Alpaca spun into a 4 ply yarn and available in 9 colours and 2 natural shades. It is the first yarn from a new collaboration between Sharon Spencer of Great British Yarns and Carmen Schmidt of A Yarn Story who, at the time, both had yarn shops in Bath.
Sharon told me:
'We both really wanted to have our own yarn and after lots of discussion came up with the Opus blend. It took a while to find a mill that could make something as lovely as we wanted and we were very lucky to find a British mill that could do everything from sourcing the fibre to spinning the yarn.'
The yarn is then sent to be dyed by a UK company which usually dyes cashmere and so is used to handling luxury yarns. Sharon and Carmen have come up with a striking palette of rich, subtle and saturated colours that blend well with each other and with the natural grey and white shades. It's then returned to the mill to be hanked and packaged.
Sharon and Carmen have also put together a stylish collection of patterns including accessories – both knitted and crocheted – and garments, that complement Opus.
Sharon told me:
'We felt strongly that the yarn had to have really strong patterns that show it off beautifully and again, we were lucky to find designers such as Amanda, Rachel and Jo who have produced gorgeous patterns.'
Sharon told me:
'Our future plans are very exciting. We are planning a new collection and a few new shades for autumn and then we hope to launch another yarn next spring.'
I am delighted that Sharon and Carmen have agreed to take me on as their first stockist of Opus (apart from themselves, of course!). As a firm believer in – and supporter of – independent yarn producers, I really applaud their initiative in taking the risk and putting in the sheer hard work involved in creating their own yarn. It can't have been easy to do that but the results are stunning and show what can be done by individuals who are passionate about yarn and can see the potential of their ideas.
With so many large, commercial yarn producers dominating the yarn market, it is really encouraging to see what can be done by two women with enthusiasm, determination and vision. Serious knitters have always valued the diversity and individuality of small scale, independently produced yarns and Opus 4ply is a worthy addition to their options.
My first project in Opus 4 ply is already on the needles beside me as I write and will be on display in the studio as soon as it is complete. Given how successful Opus 4ply has been, I await with great interest the next yarn from Walcot Yarns and confidently expect you will be finding it on the shelves of Fine Fettle Fibres in due course.