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The Fibre Co.’s story began in 2003 in an old warehouse on the working waterfront of Portland, Maine, USA with a small spinning mill, lots of raw natural fibre and owner/founder Daphne Marinopoulos’ vision of creating yarns that she couldn’t find on the retail shelves. From these humble beginnings to today’s global brand now based in the United Kingdom, we work with a variety of producers and artisans to continue creating yarns that delight and inspire the enthusiast maker. To hear the story in her own words, watch and listen as Daphne talks about fibres, dyeing and yarn development on some of the most popular video and audio podcasts.
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What’s important to us?
We’re all about sharing a heartfelt passion and creating yarns that are, at heart, as nature intended. Our yarns are combinations of a variety of natural fibres, we recognise the fragility of the landscapes that inspire us and we’re always conscious of our footprints from producer to mill to warehouse and everything in between. We aim to be stylish, consistent and to bring an authenticity to everything that we do.
We’re humbled to know that the best of the best designers use our yarns – so we’re keen to promote their work and encourage new talent. After all, their creativity is what allows us to provide you with amazing ideas.
It has always been about the triple bottom line for The Fibre Co.—people, profit and planet. We’re always asking ourselves how we can improve our sustainability. We know that sustainability is an essential ingredient for our long-term success. We understand that sustainability is a process and see ourselves as a greening business constantly looking for ways to improve our impact on the environment.
Who do we work with?
The Fibre Co. is all about celebrating wonderful yarn and the talents of those who work with it. We’re more than just a yarn company, shipping product from a warehouse. Connecting with makers is important to us and creating programmes where people from any background feel supported to share their work is essential. – You can find out how we work with designers and makers over on our Work With Us page. Everyone we work with is expected to follow our Code of Conduct.
The Fibre Co. is actively seeking to build relationships with designers and makers from all races, sexualities, gender expressions, abilities, ages, and body sizes. We are especially committed to creating a more inclusive environment to support and celebrate the work of BIPOC who design and make with our yarn. You can read more on this and contribute to the discussion here.
We recognise that we won’t always get this right but we are open to correction and will continue to educate ourselves on how to do better. If you would like to share your experience, tell us how something we’ve done has made you feel or suggest something that would make us a better, more inclusive, company, we’re all ears. We invite you to email our founder, Daphne, anytime [email protected]
Where do the ideas come from?
From New England to the English Lake District, from the wilds of Scotland to ancient silk trading routes to the African Savanna, we’re inspired by landscapes and special places.
The Fibre Co. originated in the New England landscape, famous for its autumn colours. Now we’re working from a base in England’s Lake District and our colour palette includes the purples of the heathers, the greys and blues of the lakes and skies and shades that reflect our travels further afield too.
A sense of place is important to us and we’re also inspired by great design – useful and beautiful and crossing boundaries of culture and language. We hope to share our inspirations with you and collaborate with you on new ideas too, wherever you are in the world.
What fibres do we use?
What is it? Alpaca fibre comes from the domesticated South American animal that graze in herds at high altitudes. The Fibre Co. uses what is called ‘baby’ alpaca from animals raised in the Andes mountains of southern Peru. The term ‘baby’ does not mean that the fibre is from an actual ‘baby’ animal, but instead refers to the fineness of the fibre as measured in microns or micrometres (µ). The baby alpaca in our yarn measures between 21.5 and 22.5µ., but alpaca fibre can range from 15 to 35µ. Alpaca comes in over 20 natural shades ranging from white to browns to a pure black. The Fibre Co. uses the natural white, fawn and brown alpaca shades.
Why do we use it? Alpaca fibre is generally smoother than wool from sheep and with its semi-hollow core, it is a great choice for warmth, softness and drape. With fewer scales on the alpaca fibre than wool, light is better reflected making yarns with alpaca appear more luminescent giving great depth of colour. Many of The Fibre Co. yarns have baby alpaca blended with merino wool for the best in knitting ease, stitch definition and fabric structure. Alpaca also has a very high tensile strength due to a longer staple length, which means that while our yarns are soft, they are also quite strong.
What is it? Baby llama fibre comes from the same family of domesticated South American animals as the alpaca. The llama is much larger than the alpaca and is most commonly used as a pack animal. Fibre from the llama differs from the alpaca in that that llama has two coats to its fleece—one is a layer of coarser fibres that are known as guard hairs and the other is from an undercoat of softer fibres that can be very fine. We use this finer undercoat from Peruvian baby llamas. As with baby alpaca, the term ‘baby’ refers to the fineness of the fibre as measured in microns or micrometres (µ) with the baby llama in our yarn measuring between 21.5 and 22.5µ.
Why do we use it? We use baby llama for the same reasons that we use baby alpaca—it is generally smoother than wool from sheep and provides greater warmth, softness and drape. With fewer scales on the llama fibre than wool, light is better reflected making yarns with alpaca appear more luminescent giving great depth of colour. The Fibre Co. yarns that use baby llama are blended with merino wool to give the best stitch definition and fabric structure. In addition to being very soft, baby llama is a very strong fibre due to the longer staple length.
What is it? Bamboo fibre is made by shredding the bamboo plant into a pulp and then extruding this into a filament that can be spun into yarn. The bamboo plant grows easily without the use of pesticides or fertilizers, it is biodegradable and grows easily on slopes not usable for other crops.
Why do we use it? Bamboo fibre has a natural sheen, readily absorbs moisture and creates a durable breathable fabric. It has a luxurious soft feel and lovely drape comparable to silk but at a much lower cost. Other desirable properties of bamboo fibre are its natural anti-bacterial nature and wrinkle resistance. We also really like the fact that bamboo is the fastest growing plant in the world that thrives on rain water alone.
What is it? Camel hair comes from the Bactrian camel which is found across Asia with the biggest producers being from Afghanistan, China, Mongolia and Tibet. The camel has a coat of both coarse and fine fibres, which are either shorn or collected during the natural moulting season. Fine camel hair ranges from from 15 to 22µ.
Why do we use it? We use fine camel hair for its luxurious softness, thermostatic properties and beautiful natural fawn colour. The fine soft down from the inner coat of the camel is very lightweight creating great warmth without bulk. Camel hair is quite comparable to cashmere fibre but is available at a lower cost.
What is it? Cashmere fibre is the fine undercoat of the cashmere goat that is found mostly in Asia. The fine fibre ranges from from 12 to 18µ and is mixed with a very coarse coat of guard hairs that must be painstakingly removed after the coat is shorn or moulted.
Why do we use it? We use cashmere in the most luxurious of our blends for its super soft handle and ultimate in lightweight warmth.
What is it? Masham is a breed of sheep that is found in the United Kingdom. Masham sheep are a cross breed between a Swaledale ewe and a Teeswater ram. The wool has a very long staple length of between 15 to 35cm (6 and 14”) and ranges from 28 to 34µ. While it is not the finest of wools, it comes in beautiful natural shades of white, grey and dark brown.
Why do we use it? We use masham wool for its beautiful natural brown colour in blends with other finer wools resulting in a yarn base that when overdyed creates interesting heathered colours. We also use the natural ecru wool for some of the shades in our Cumbria yarn.
What is it? Merino wool comes from a breed of sheep by the same name that originated in Spain, but are now found around the world in the common sheep growing regions. This breed of sheep is bred primarily for its very fine wool, which is usually less than 24 µ. The Fibre Co. uses merino wool from countries such as Argentina where mulesing is not practiced as well as from other countries with a certification that the merino is non-mulsed.
Why do we use it? We are very fond of blending merino in many of our yarns due to its fineness and elasticity, which gives good ‘memory’ and ‘bounce’ to a yarn. It is also generally more comfortable on the hands and easier to knit consistent stitches with a more elastic yarn. We like merino for its lightweight yet thermal insulating properties. It adds warmth in colder winter climates and it can keep one cool in warmer summer weather.
What is it? Known as the ‘Diamond Fibre’ due to its luxurious smoothness, lustre, and durability, mohair fibre comes from the Angora goat. The mohair used in The Fibre Co. yarns is from Argentina. It is commonly used in knitting yarns that are brushed as this adds softness and warmth without weight. Mohair fibre from the first two shearings at 6 and 12 months is classed as ‘kid’ mohair, whilst the rest is referred to as ‘adult’ mohair. The micron count varies widely from 24 – 36 µ.
Why do we use it? The Fibre Co. adds mohair to other duller fibres to add sheen to a yarn.
What is it? Cotton fibres come from the cotton plant, which is of the genus known as Gossypium. It is a soft cellulosic fibre The cotton used in The Fibre Co. yarns comes from Peru and is organically grown without synthetic pesticides or herbicides.
Why do we use it? We add cotton to yarn because it creates a fabric that is comfortable to wear due to its ability to absorb moisture and wick it away from the body. Conventionally grown cotton uses an inordinate amount of synthetic fertilisers and other substances per acre of agricultural land that have a detrimental effect on our natural ecosystems. The Fibre Co. uses organically grown cotton in certain blends to eliminate the use of synthetic chemicals thereby protecting plants, animals, insects and microorganisms needed for a healthy environment.
What is it? Nylon is a synthetic polymer that is melted into fibres. Recycled nylon used in our sock yarn, Amble, comes from leftover industrial waste of processing nylon.
Why do we use it? Nylon fibre is not easily biodegradable. However, it has strength qualities that give yarns and the socks made therefrom more durability. The use of leftover industrial nylon waste in our sock yarn helps to divert waste from landfills and uses fewer production resources like water and fossil fuels than virgin nylon.
What is it? Silk is produced mainly in China from cocoons spun by silkworms. There are two main types of commercially available silk—mulberry and tussah. Mulberry is a white cultivated form of silk that takes its name from the leaves that the worms eat. Tussah silk cocoons are collected from forests in the wild where the worms feed on the available forest leaves whose tannins give the tussah silk its characteristic dull golden sheen.
Why do we use it? We use silk in blends to add lustre and brilliant colour. Since silk does not have scales, it is very smooth, which means that it adds softness to any yarn blended with silk. Silk also adds strength as it begins as a long continuous filament that is extruded to a desired length. In fact, parachutes were originally made from woven silk fabric due to the strength properties of silk.
What is it? Silk noil, also sometimes called ‘Bourette’, is the short filament left over from spinning fine silk thread.
Why do we use it? When blended with other fibres, silk noil creates a ‘slub’ or uneven yarn. This effect gives the yarn a rustic look and allows us to achieve various colour effects.
Wool nepps are small bits of tangled fibres that are often a by-product of the worsted spinning process. Multiple shades of wool nepps are used in The Fibre Co.’s Arranmore Donegal tweed yarn to give it its rustic flecked appearance.
Other terms related to fibres and yarns
A micron is a metric unit of measurement commonly used to describe the diameter of fibres. It is equivalent to one thousandth of a millimetre. The smaller the micron value, the finer the fibre.
The term ‘staple length’ refers to the measurement in cm or inches of a cluster of natural fibres.
The word ‘tweed’ can be used to mean different things depending on whether one is talking about cloth, yarn, weave structure, and provenance. The word is believed to come from the Scottish word ‘tweel’ or ‘twill’, a common weave pattern. Generally, tweed refers to a type of wool cloth that is loosely woven. A tweed yarn is one that is used to weave a tweed cloth. There is Harris Tweed, a tweed from yarn that is made in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. And there is Donegal Tweed, a tweed made from yarn that was traditionally dyed and spun for personal use in the South West region of County Donegal, Ireland in the early 1800s. The Donegal tweed was known for its flecked look derived from blending wool with nepps, small bits of tangled wool fibres. The Fibre Co.’s Arranmore yarn is a traditional woollen-spun Donegal tweed yarn made in a mill that traces its roots to the early days of producing Donegal yarns on an industrial scale in the early 1900s.
When referring to yarns for hand knitting, we use the term ‘woollen-spun’ to describe a type of spinning whereby the various fibres in different lengths overlap each other in a multi-directional format, which creates pockets of air in-between the fibres. A woollen-spun yarn has a very soft feel.
The word ‘worsted’ has different meanings when it comes to textiles depending on the context. It can refer to the spinning process, the thickness of yarn and a certain type of fabric.
- When the term ‘worsted spun’ is used, it refers to a process of spinning whereby the fibres are aligned parallel to one another and combed to remove the short fibres prior to spinning.
- A ‘worsted weight’ yarn is one that will generally knit to a tension of 18-20 stitches over 10 cm (4 in) in stocking stitch using 4–5mm (US 6–8) needles.
- A ‘worsted fabric’ is one that is woven from tightly twisted ‘worsted spun’ yarns to create a durable fabric that is lighter in weight yet still provides strength and warmth. Often, worsted fabrics are used in men’s suiting and outerwear. The word ‘worsted’ itself comes from the name of a village located in the English county of Norfolk.
Easy-wash is a trademarked name that refers to a process used to make the wool and alpaca fibres in our sock yarn Amble machine washable without shrinking. The Easy-wash method is chlorine-free and AOX-free, making it the best environmental choice for producing machine washable wool. The wool and alpaca fibres are treated with eco-friendly oxidants to remove the scales that ordinarily cause wool and alpaca to shrink when washed by machine. The oxidants used are sourced in Germany and are certified under the REACH, Oeko-tex and ZDCH (Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemical) standards. This means that the Easy-wash treatment does not create hazardous chemicals, which is not the case with most machine washable wools in today’s market. Most other machine washable wool yarns are made with a chlorine treatment process that produces high levels of toxic Adsorbable Organohalogens, known as AOX. While yarns produced in this manner are not known to be toxic to the user, AOX used in the treatment end up in wastewater and have a detrimental impact on tributaries, wildlife, and fauna.