Chopped Ginger Wool Project
Following on from this morning’s post from Caroline Walshe we have another intrepid adventurer in wool and yarn production. Sariann Lehrer launched the Wool Project this year and is working directly with small flock farmers to create single breed and single flock yarns.
Sheep are amazing animals, intricate, living, breathing machines. Subsisting on the land, from lush green lowland pasture to the harsh heathered highlands, they manufacture the most wonderful, fibrous fluff we call wool. If you’ve gone through the trouble of reading this article, you too have been consumed by the crinkled staples, the crisply plied yarns, the methodically carded batts, and the possibilities in a freshly untwisted hank of yarn. Walk into my living room, and you’d know that I am in the late, late stages of that consumption. I’m coughing up yarn, and it’s wonderful. I am Chopped Ginger, and my yarn baby is the Wool Project.
Despite living in the eighth largest city in the UK, I am rural. My roots, while not in sheep herding, are deeply dug in agriculture, and the often harsh world of small farming. I don’t have a heartwarming story of how my granny taught me to knit when I was a little girl, or of my mum knitting me jumpers as a child. It was a stroke of luck that I learned at all, really. If my sister hadn’t joined the knitting club in high school as an easy way to earn community service hours, knitting would never have entered my life. As it is, I’m forever grateful for her laziness; knitting has been a lifeline running through the stitches of my life. Always safe, always comforting, and always there.
It wasn’t until I moved to Edinburgh permanently that knitting and yarn became integral in my day to day life. Sheep are rarely seen in the part of the States where I’m from. Yarn shops are few and far between, and sheep breeds are not widely known. I rode my bicycle from Bristol to Edinburgh when we moved home. From the Wye Valley, to the Shropshire Hills, to the Lake District and the Borders of Scotland, I was surrounded by impossibly beautiful landscape, nearly all of which inhabited by sheep. Previously happy to simply knit other people’s wool, I was inspired, even compelled, to become part of the process. And so the Wool Project was born.
The Chopped Ginger Wool Project engages with small flock, sheep farmers across Britain, with the hope of connecting the knitter with their source of yarn. I feel very strongly that we, as knitters, play an integral role as yarn consumers in saving heritage and rare breeds in Britain. In real life I’m a chef, and my passion is finding the stories behind foods and sharing those stories with my diners. The Wool Project aims to do just the same- the story starts with a phone call to a farmer in Tranent, or Yorkshire, or Lincolnshire, who asks for the price she needs for the season’s fleece, rather than what she is told it’s worth. The fleeces then travel to The Border Mill, a micro-mill in Berwickshire, Scotland, where John and Juliet wash, card, and spin the fleece into gorgeous yarn.
The result is a single breed, single flock yarn that tells its own story. A “flock bio” is printed on each label, so when you buy a skein, you know who’s hard work was put in to raise the sheep. On the Chopped Ginger website, I’ve expanded the information even further, to include breed history and photographs of the actual sheep who’s fleece the yarn was made from.
This year, the first year of the Wool Project, I’ve chosen to work with four farmers. Our Black and White Wensleydale yarn is currently available on the website, with the Teeswater to be released this month. Blue Faced Leicester is still to come, and the Gotland yarns will be released for the Edinburgh Yarn Festival in March next year. Chopped Ginger yarns tell a story, but it’s up to you knitters, crocheters, and weavers to stitch the rest of the tale.
Thank you so much, Sariann. Your enthusiasm and passion for working with small producers to create incredible single breed and single flock yarn is so inspiring. How wonderful to knit with a skein of Chopped Ginger breed yarn and know such a great deal about its origin. We’ve posted before about how little information can be found on the ball-band of some yarns and this is such an example of how the ball band and a yarn can really exceed all expectations.
Louise is currently knitting a swatch in the Teeswater (which will be released soon) and will be sharing her thoughts with Wovember soon.
All images belong to Sariann and are used with kind permission.