If anything was ever the real-life manifestation of our Ja, Wol tagline, it’s The Grey Sheep Co. Buy less, buy better, get skilled, make more and make it last. Read that last sentence once more, let it sink in, and then get ready to learn about this extraordinary yarn company who have built their business around those very same principles. If you haven’t heard about this sustainable, ethical and idyllic yarn brand before, you are in for a real treat because The Grey Sheep Co. is that rare operation that ticks all the slow-fashion-maker’s-movement-sustainable-making boxes.
The Grey Sheep Co. owner Emma Boyles became a first-generation farmer when she, her partner and their 3 daughters moved to Well Manor Farm in Surrey/Hampshire in 2004. Determined to bring life back to the derelict farmhouse and the desolate landscape they had acquired, Emma and her family worked hard to learn about traditional British farming practices that used low intensive, mixed farming to keep disease down and biodiversity up.
Given Emma’s love of textiles, it was only a matter of time before yarn production became a central part of this low intensive, mixed approach to farming. Today, Well Manor Farm is home to a flock of fine wool sheep that are nurtured and bred for the sole purpose of high-quality yarn production. They are monitored and treated individually, which means there is no need for wide use of antibiotics, and the lambs are left on the ewes to self-wean, which means they are happier and less prone to illness.
These sheep are cared for by Emma and her shepherdess/shearer extraordinaire Susie (who by the way has a wonderful Instagram account @susie.parish filled with adorable videos of sheep doing cute sheepy things!). After Susie has shorn each sheep, Emma and Susie hand sort each fleece together before sending them to Matt in Yorkshire who washes them and then sends them on to Michael who spins them into a beautiful yarn. Finally, the yarn is returned to Well Manor Farm, where Emma herself hand dyes every last skein. The entire process happens in the U.K. and uses no chlorine chemical or super wash treatments, which results in a stunning, artisan created, all-natural yarn product ready for you cast on.
In fact, let’s not forget to talk about the end product! The Grey Sheep Co. yarns are stunning. They are a rare mix of luxurious and earthy. They are soft enough to be worn on the skin, but still display a unique character and texture. Emma explains that her yarn colours are inspired by the English country side where she lives and the coast line where she grew up. We would add a Dutch touch to the colour description and add that, for us, Emma’s colours are reminiscent of a van Gogh. Each one is vibrant and rich in its own right but when placed alongside one another, they make up one glorious starry night. Check them out on our website and I think (hope!) you’ll see what I mean!
The Grey Sheep Co. is an inspiring example for how beautiful, high quality yarns can be produced without compromising on ethical farming, sustainable production methods or animal care. We earnestly encourage you to try this brand for your next project, no matter what it is. You won’t be disappointed!
Written by Lia for Ja Wol with information and photos sourced from thegreysheep.co.uk.