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



I’ve had the Puzzlewood Mittens pattern on my to-make list since it was first published a couple of years ago. The original design, by Ruth Werwai, was published in the lovely book WOODS, by the Making Stories team. I love that they feature local sustainable yarns – and, in fact, Black Isle Yarns are the original yarns used in the Puzzlewood Mittens design.

Puzzlewood Mittens

I no longer produce one of the original yarns so I decided to knit my pair with two skeins of Gotland DK (one of the two original yarns). I have been testing the colour-fastness of yarn dyed with Safflower and used a sunshiny yellow Safflower skein combined with a soft beige dyed with oak bark. The pattern is a straightforward and satisfying knit. I knit size 2 although I would have been better with size 1. Since taking the photos I have machine washed the mitts to slightly shrink and felt them! With two 100g skeins you could knit two pairs of these mittens, reversing the colour dominance for the second pair.

I’d definitely recommend this pattern as a quick and simple knit.

Puzzlewood Mittens in BIY Gotland DK, Size 2