12 October 2019 – British Breeds: A Hands-On Exploration!

12 October 2019 – British Breeds: A Hands-On Exploration!

from 15.00

10.00 – 4.30

Would you like to know more about the incredible variety of sheep-breeds in the UK? Curious to know what the fuss is about microns and staple lengths? Feel the urge to fondle some new-to-you wool? Then this event is for you!

It is all about British sheep breeds and the yarns that come from them. It offers an exciting, hands-on opportunity to explore their potential for use in knitting.

It is also about survival. So many of our British sheep breeds are endangered and today is also about asking the question ‘What can knitters do to help rare breed survival’?

You can come all day, and include a morning workshop, or come for the afternoon session only. Booking is essential for all options and you will need to choose your workshop option at the time of booking. All-day tickets are £55 including the workshop. Afternoon-only tickets are £15.

In the morning there is a choice of workshops from 10.00 – 12.30

  • Exploring in depth with Zoe Fletcher aka The Woolist.
    Zoe with work with a small group in the Fine Fettle Fibres workshop room offering an in-depth discussion of a selection of around six British Sheep breeds. Participants will examine a number of contrasting fleeces and yarns and make their own breed data sheets. She will bring along some sample yarns for participants to test out the potential of the yarns when knitted and create swatches to add to their data sheets.


  • Exploring in breadth with Jonny King of Garthenor Organics, podcaster Louise Scollay and Judith Goodfellow of Fine Fettle Fibres
    This workshop will take place in the Long Room where small groups will rotate around the activities on offer. These will include a fleece grading demonstration and hands-on session with Jonny, and the opportunity to test out a wider selection of single breed yarns with Louise and Judith. We will be creating small swatches, using different stitch patterns in a variety of yarns, to help us build a picture of which yarns work best with which stitches. This is turn will help us to decide how we can match these wonderful yarns with the projects we want to make and get the best out of them in our own knitting.

After the workshops there will be a relaxed break for a buffet lunch for the workshop participants (please let me know in advance of the day if you have any dietary requirements) and time to explore Zoe’s British Breed exhibition, the Garthenor Organic stall, visit Fine Fettle Fibres, take part in a quiz and … sit and knit and chat awhile! We will be joined from about 1pm by more folks coming for the afternoon only.

After the break, at about 2.30, we will hear presentations from:

  • Ruth Dalton, Northern Field Officer for the Rare Breed Survival Trust, on the work of the Trust and their part in helping preserve our rarest sheep breeds.

  • Jonny King, on the challenges and opportunities of farming and spinning rare breed wool.

  • Zoe Fletcher, on how her work with British Sheep Breeds can help, not just knitters, but also textile and knitwear designers to find out about the qualities of different breed wools and encourage their use in garment and accessory design and production.

Louise Scollay will then chair a panel discussion and Q & A as we bring together what we have learnt from our exploration of British wool and, in particular, address the question we started with: How can knitters contribute to rare breed survival through their choices and purchases?

And finally, we will finish with the quiz results … and prizes!


  • Lunch is included for the morning workshop participants only, sorry!

  • Each ticket includes a £5 donation to the work of the RBST

  • If you are coming for the afternoon only, you are welcome to arrive between 1.00 and 1.30 so that you have time to browse the exhibition and take part in the quiz etc before the presentations begin.

  • During the afternoon session, Louise will be recording material (audio only) for her podcast.

  • Photographs may be taken during the day so if you do not wish to be in any of the photographs please make me aware of this on the day.

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Meet the Tutors and Guest Speakers … in their own words

  • Zoe Fletcher: The Woolist

The Woolist grew from a need to find out more about native British wool fibres, and understand more about the desirable qualities they possess and how we can promote local fibres and local making. 

A four year research project followed, with the aim of documenting and re-designing the way knitwear designers and textile designers could find out about the different qualities that each breed of the 72 purebred British sheep possess, to fulfil their needs to design aesthetically pleasing yet functional garments, accessories and products. 

We want to engage with all wool users, from craft through to high-end manufacture, to promote British wool and help connect wool users with the information they need to utilise this renewable sustainable fibre.

  • Jonny King: Garthenor Organics

Garthenor’s mission is to promote and provide a variety of sustainable, organic & British wool products in an ecologically responsible way. Our aim is to help secure the future of British organic agriculture and the British textile industry.

We source, produce and sell Certified organic wool products, including yarn, fleece and bespoke knitwear. All the wool you’ll see with our name on it has been certified to global organic standards.

We started in the 1990s, with wool produced from our own sheep. We’ve since expanded faster than our flock, and we buy raw fleeces from around the UK directly from the farmer – no middle man, which means all our wool is fully traceable from sheep to jumper.

  • Podcaster Louise Scollay

One day I wrote a blog post on a local yarn and I was a bit ashamed to discover that almost all of my stash was imported wool.

Quickly I cobbled together the idea to try and knit for a year with as much UK produced yarn as possible: wool grown, spun or dyed in this country and as many British breeds as possible … and not just sheep!

The aim was to knit, review and blog on the subject all year and most importantly promote as many UK producers as possible. There is such a huge local resource out there –  a wealth of wool.

After the first year I was off and running and now there is also a monthly podcast and a Ravelry group too.

  • Ruth Dalton: Northern Field Officer for the Rare Breed Survival Trust

Ruth has worked for the RBST as the Northern Field Officer since 2010. She and her partner graze Shetland cattle and Whitefaced Woodland sheep in South Cumbria and also keep rare breed ponies and poultry. The cattle, sheep and ponies all carry out conservation grazing duties for local landowners and Ruth has a strong interest in using native breeds for sustainable food production and sympathetic land management.