Rie and I first made contact with each other through a US based yarn shop, and were paired up for a project which was due to launch late 2020. Sadly that particular three-way collaboration fell foul of coronavirus but Rie and I decided to continue working together.

We agreed that Rie would use Auchen, my sport weight woollen spun yarn, which at the time was newly released. We had some to and fro discussions to decide what sort of colour I should dye and settled on a soft madder shade. We also considered what the theme of our work should be and felt that Crossing Borders seemed to sum it up. Originally we were working as three women in three different countries each with their own strengths and challenges, and Crossing Borders felt like the way we wanted to approach the world. I did some trial dyeing on Auchen and Rie and I picked a beautiful shade dyed with madder and cutch which I have named Crossing Borders. I then sent two skeins off to Rie to work her design magic.

Crossing Borders – Auchen dyed with madder and cutch

Rie is a wonderfully talented designer with quite a distinct quiet but beautiful aesthetic and I was excited to see her design in Auchen develop. The design is everything I could have hoped for, a delicate but cosy shawl designed to drape and keep you warm. The main body of the shawl is a pretty shell lace and the deep border is a simple ribbon eyelet. The shawl can be folded where the triangular lace section changes to the eyelet border and doing so helps the design sit well across your shoulders. Bothe sides of the design are wearable.

Asahi Shawl in Auchen Sport
Asahi Shawl by Rie (@kouvive) in Auchen Sport

Once Rie had almost finished the design we considered what the shawl should be named and Rie suggested ‘Asahi’ which is the Japanese name for the Crossing Borders colour. Rie’s shawl pattern is available on Ravelry here, I don’t think it is available anywhere else but if you can’t access Ravelry please let me know and I will help out. I knit my version of Asahi in Harvest Gold which is dyed with fustic, quebracho red and rhubarb root. The Ravelry notes for the project are here.

Asahi Shawl knit in Auchen Sport Crossing Borders

Woolwork Reviews
Since Auchen arrived back here earlier this year I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know it – knitting and dyeing with a yarn I have dreamed of producing for quite some time was pretty scary at first, but I am finding it a pleasure to work with.  Rather than just believe me though, since my perspective is undoubtedly biased, I had a lovely group test and review the yarn for me. I hope it will be useful information for you in deciding whether you might want to knit with Auchen and what to expect from it.

Sea Green Auchen – naturally dyed with weld and indigo

The review group was recruited through Louise Scollay’sWoolWork (formerly Knit British) Ravlery group. I think the initial idea to do this came from Louise herself, which I’m really grateful for.  I really appreciate her letting me set up a thread in her Ravelry group and especially for allowing me to adopt her Wool Exploration report format.  Louise’ website, Podcast and Ravelry group are a mine of information about sheep breeds and their wool properties.  Very many thanks to the six lovely women who reviewed Auchen so thoroughly for me. Link to Auchen reviews below:

WOOLWORK REVIEWS

The yarn facts and figures
I hope that all this information has been useful. As always I want to be as transparent and traceable in my yarn production as possible. 

The final piece of the jigsaw is the yarn specifications. Auchen has been woollen spun giving an airy, lofty, lightweight and adaptable yarn. It is two plied (i.e. two singles plied together) and is Sport Weight at approximately 375m/100g.  The individual skeins are generous with 410m each and approximately 110g per skein.

Turkish Rose Auchen – naturally dyed with madder and tea
Auchen –‘field’ in lowland Scots, thought to originate from Gaelic ‘achadh’ meaning ‘field of the’

Auchen 
Auchen has been developed with support, for some aspects of the project, from the Highland and Islands Small Innovation Grant Scheme and is the first larger scale yarn I have produced.  It has taken over 18 months to get to the stage of having an awful lot of yarn taking up a lot of shed space!

Auchen is a blend of Bluefaced Leicester hogg*, Cheviot hogg and Shetland – in proportion approximately 40, 30 and 30% respectively. All the fleeces were white apart from a small number of dark Shetland, selected to give the yarn its natural pale grey Haar colour and occasional dark fleck. As usual I hand picked every fleece and then skirted each of them to ensure only the finest fleece went into the yarn.  Most of the fleece comes from the Black Isle itself and the furthest was less than an hour drive away.

Auchen undyed natural grey – Haar

I commissioned my lovely friend Katie Green to illustrate a map showing each of the flock locations. I am absolutely delighted with the map – it will also feature on the yarn labels, so that each skein will come with its own beautiful illustration. I have a post here on Instagram talking a little more about each of the flocks whose fleece has gone into Auchen. If you’d like to know more about the three breeds of sheep this post has photos and some information about each and this post has more information about the wool properties of each breed.  And, if you’d like to know more about why I chose the name Auchen have a look here.

*Hogg = ewe lambs at the end of their first year, first clip

Flock map illustrated by Katie Green

Auchen Yarn Journey
After a lot of consideration I settled on New Lanark to spin the yarn, for their skilled and experienced woollen spinning. New Lanark is a historic mill which has been spinning since 1786.  They offer a custom spinning service on their 19th century machinery (which uses renewably sourced energy from their water-powered turbine). I particularly liked that I was asked to send samples of the fleeces I was planning to use in the yarn – before agreeing to take on the commission New Lanark wanted to be sure they’d be able to spin a quality yarn for me.

Auchen Haar

Sadly, there is no capacity to scour fleece in Scotland (which is the first step before spinning), so I took a transit van full of the beautiful raw (and quite smelly on a hot August day!) fleece to Thomas Chadwick and Sons in Yorkshire last summer.  The cleaned fleece then waited until there was a full load before travelling back north to New Lanark (to minimise carbon miles).  Following spinning, at the very end of 2019, the yarn made a trip back to Yorkshire, to Harrison and Gardiner to remove the spinning oil.  Again, the yarn bales waited to join a load before coming north, back to their starting point on the Black Isle.

Transit van full of fleece at Thomas Chadwick and Sons