This September we are celebrating our very first Yarn of the Month, Arranmore Light, and with it, we begin our yearlong celebration of yarn and knitting, The Almanac Series, a seasonal guide to knitting with The Fibre Co. yarns. The Almanac Series will include a range of new patterns released throughout the year, educational posts about our yarns and techniques.
Inspired by the breath-taking scenery of Ireland, Arranmore Light yarn is spun in a mill that traces its roots to the homespun tweed industry of 19th century County Donegal. This DK-weight yarn blends cashmere and silk with fine Merino wool to create an authentic tweed yarn in a colour palette reminiscent of the wild Irish coastlands for makers who appreciating the best of luxury and tradition.
Some yarns begin with an idea, some begin with a place. Arranmore Light began with a tradition.
The Fibre Co. yarns are rooted in a sense of place, from our first yarn Terra (‘of the Earth’) to our newest addition Amble, a yarn designed to make the perfect socks for those long walks here in the Lake District.
When The Fibre Co. Founder Daphne began researching the creation of a new yarn, she knew that she wanted to celebrate the rich vein of history rooted in Ireland, home of the world famous Donegal Tweed with a yarn that remained true to the spirit of this tradition, while incorporating the luxury and ethos at the heart of The Fibre Co.
The unique heritage of tweed yarns in the UK meant Daphne knew The Fibre Co. would need to find the perfect partner to help create this yarn; a partner who was deeply involved with the history of the materials and would understand the yarn like no one else.
Although there are many mills which claim to be part of the tweed heritage, Daphne’s research revealed just one that made a truly authentic tweed yarn, and when she found it in County Donegal, she knew she had discovered the means to creating a very special yarn.
The mill was founded in the nineteenth century as a centre of excellence, to educate and assist the Irish crofters who were the main producers of tweed at the time. As the popularity of Donegal tweed outpaced the ability of the local crofters to make it, the mill was repurposed to become a centre of production, which it remains to this day.
To develop Arranmore Light, Daphne traveled to Donegal to spend time working with the mill creating an authentic yarn infused with the spirit of The Fibre Co. So, what came out of this collaboration? A yarn of rich texture, luxurious feel with a vibrant palette.
There are some great resources about the difference between woolen- and worsted-spun yarns on the internet, but we will give you the abridged version here:
Both woolen and worsted spun yarns begin with cleaning fibre. It is then picked through and mixed together before going through the carding machine, which disentangles the clumps of fibre and organizes it into a single mass.
For a worsted spun yarn, the carded fibre is then combed into a very neat, parallel formation, removing any shorter fibres, and creating a smooth, organized length of fibre. The yarn is then split and rolled and a twist is added to the yarn which may then be plied. These processes work together to creates a dense, smooth yarn.
For a woolen spun yarn, the carded fibre is then split and a twist added to the fibre, in this more loosely organized state, with the fibres jumbled together in different directions. This creates a lofty, light yarn with lots of air pockets that hold warm air close, and has a lot of texture. This is the reason woolen-spun yarns are known for ‘blooming’ after they are blocked, as the jumbled fibres relax and expand in the bath.
Daphne knew that she wanted to create a yarn that incorporated the traditional look of Donegal tweed, but not the sometimes rough and scratchy feel of traditional yarns. She found the solution in a mixture of luxurious fibre processed in the traditional way. Incorporating superfine merino wool for warmth, she added silk for strength and subtle sheen, and cashmere for luxurious softness.
To create the vibrant shades, each of the fibres were dyed separately in saturated colours before being mixed together. These pre-dyed fibres are mixed together in often unusual and unexpected combinations to create a depth of colour which can’t be achieved any other way.
When you look at Arranmore Light yarn from a distance, you see a single, rich hue, but on closer inspection, you can see small bits of bright colour, almost like looking closely at a pointillist painting. A single hank of Arranmore Light can incorporate up to 8 individual shades. Sometimes it creates a subtle effect, sometimes a bold one.
Every yarn The Fibre Co. makes is a labour of love and is carefully crafted to create a beautifully unique product that is a joy to work with. Arranmore Light is no exception to this rule. What makes this yarn stand out from its siblings is not just its sense of place but also the construction of the yarn itself: a woollen-spun yarn with a vibrant, rich palette that incorporates luxurious fibres into a yarn.
If you have enjoyed learning more about Arranmore Light, we hope you will find our mini-series of three short films to accompany our Yarn of the Month interesting.