In case you missed it, January is Dovestone Hills month here in the land of Stolen Stitches. I’m very excited to get to share a wonderful interview with the founder of baa ram ewe LYS, Dovestone & Titus yarns; the lovely Verity Britton. Carol asked her a few choice questions so that you could meet the person behind the yarn:
How did baa ram ewe get started?
We opened baa ram ewe in North Leeds, Yorkshire, back in 2009 with the main aim of being a yarn store that people felt was part of their community and celebrated Yorkshire’s rich wool heritage, whether that was through local sheep breeds, spinners or the many hand knitting companies that are still based here like Sirdar, King Cole and Thomas Ramsden. It was mind-boggling to discover Leeds did not have a yarn shop that wasn’t selling mostly acrylics, or that had modern, wearable designs. So I left my career in radio production and opened baa ram ewe! I had no business experience and it was a bit of a gamble, but from day one we’ve had such incredible support and wonderful customers, many of whom have stayed with us over the years.
What prompted you to begin your own yarn line?
It was a natural progression really. We have always had a passion for beautiful Yorkshire sheep breeds like the Masham and the Wensleydale, and we always dreamt of being able to showcase these to their full potential in our own yarn. But it was a struggle at the start finding a mill that would spin a small enough amount for us, as we only imagined we would sell a little from our shop. The response we had to our Titus when we launched it was incredible, largely down to Clara Parkes’ Knitter’s Review, which meant we sold out within days! I always remember us being amazed at getting calls from Times Square in New York with people asking to buy our yarn! It was then that we took the decision to scale up production so that we could meet demand globally. The idea that our passion for showcasing luxurious Yorkshire wool along with the superb quality of local spinners and dyers now resonates across the world still gives me a massive thrill.
How many different yarns are you now producing?
We have two different ‘brands’ of yarn: Our original Titus which is a 4 ply/fingering weight and a blend of Wensleydale, Bluefaced Leicester and British Alpaca. Then there’s our Dovestone range which is a blend of Masham, Wensleydale and Bluefaced Leicester. We have a DK in a lovely shade range which matches the Titus, and our new 5 shades of Dovestone Natural Aran, which celebrates the stunning- and rare- black and brown fleeces of these breeds and makes use of them when traditionally farmers would find them harder to sell.
Your yarn lines are very inspired by Yorkshire, what inspires you about where you live?
The unique combination of landscape and industry is what historically made Yorkshire the centre of the universe when it came to wool production, and what continues to be our inspiration today. On the doorstep of our shop in the city of Leeds are buildings that were once the largest spinning mills in the world, with huge banks of windows and chimneys which still define the skyline. But drive half an hour or so up the road from us and you are in the Yorkshire Dales, a beautiful landscape still peppered with sheep and lush green fields, which provide the fleeces we use for our yarn. All of this inspires us for our signature shade palette, whether it’s the teal green of Eccup, named after the Reservoir up the road from us here or the treacle and ginger mixture of Parkin, a delicious Yorkshire cake which I recommend everyone tries at the earliest opportunity!
Any more in the pipeline that you can share?
Ooo well, we are just about to launch our new products for Spring Summer 2017, so this is good timing! We have three gorgeous new shades of Dovestone DK and Titus: a mustard called Brass Band, a gentle pale lavender called Heathcliff and a perfect Raspberry rose called Rose Window, named after the circular window at York Minster. We’ve used these shades in a brand new design collection from Alison Moreton called the Titus Vintage Collection! The collection is a reworking of vintage Sirdar patterns which we found when given exclusive access to their archive. It’s such a lovely book.
We are also VERY excited about a brand new product we are launching, called Titus pick n mix: a tube of six 12 gramme Titus mini balls in 4 different shade combinations, all inspired by traditional sweets including Liquorice Allsorts, Kali (a Yorkshire word for Sherbert!), Wine Gums and Gobstoppers. Each tube comes with a free fingerless mitt pattern to make too, and they’re a brilliant way of introducing people to our yarns, using just a small amount of each shade, rather than having to buy full 100g hanks.
Where can knitters find your yarn?
We always offer a warm welcome to visitors who can make it to our store in Leeds, but we also have an online shop on our website, and now have over 250 retailers around the world, making one big happy baa ram ewe community! We have a store locator page on our site too where you can put in your post or zip code and find your nearest retailer. We sell all over North America, Europe and as far as Japan and Israel, so hopefully, you’ll be able to find somewhere close to you!
Thank you, Verity, for finding the time to answer these questions.
Until the 14th of February if you use code HAPPYDOVES you’ll get 15% off any of the Dovestone individual patterns or off the digital book. As an extra special bonus from baa ram ewe you’ll also get a discount code for 10% off their Dovestone DK yarn for the same time period. That code will be available when you purchase the patterns or digital book.
Carol is also blogging about each of the techniques used in the seamless construction of the garments in the collection. In case you missed it the first up was Caelius and Carol talks in-depth about it here.
So which is your favourite? Let us know in the comments and to be one of the first to know about releases, KAL’s and discounts why not sign up to the newsletter.