New Lanark Mill – Utopian Socialism And Yarn

Wolle aus New Lanark

2017 so far seems to be a year of spontaneous trips to Scotland. In March I was in Edinburgh at the Edinyarnfest (see photos here).  shag and this community seems to be as nerdy about dancing as us yarnies are about knitting. No way is too far to visit a nice festival with cool instructors. So we got there in the first place for the Glasgow Shag Festival. While Marilena was swinging I visited crafty places.

New Lanark is a UNESCO World Heritage Site approx. one hour train ride from Glasgow. It’s the birthplace of Utopian Socialism and cooperatives. And what is makes it even more attractive – you can watch yarn being spun. And yarn shopping is possible, too.

New Lanark Mill - Foto Sabine Frisch

New Lanark: From Utopia to Reality

New Lanark Mill is a former cotton mill, that was owned 1800 until 1825 by British Social Reformer Robert Owen. It is where he put his ideas and reforms of Utopian Socialism into practice.

New Lanark is situated in a beautiful valley of the River Clyde and is a great visit for families. A focus of the tour is the situation of the working class children in the 19th century. Before Robert Owen introduced his reforms children had a very long and hard working day in the mill, had been beaten and yelled at.

River Clyde New Lanark - Foto Sabine Frisch

The waters of the River Clyde have always been the power source for New Lanark.

Robert Owen did not allow children under 10 years in his mill. He opened a school where corporal punishment was banned and the curriculum includes art and music. He encouraged children over 10 and adults to go to school with a shortened working day.

Owen is also the founder of the cooperative movement. He bought quality groceries in bulk opened a village store where the inhabitants could buy a low prices or tokens.

Owen sold the mill in 1825 and move to the USA where he founded New Harmony that should evolve his Utopia even further. New Lanark Mill was closed in 1968 and decayed. In the 1980ties it was restored as Museum.

Visiting the Mill
New Lanark Mill - Bild: Sabine Frisch

The 19th-century spinning mule in New Lanark is powered by water turbines.

Today the mill is spinning wool instead of cotton. A traditional 19th-century spinning mule is used for the process. You can watch Aran, Chunky or DK yarns are made. New Lanark Wool and Textiles is spinning locally sourced British wool. There is also a soft tweed mixed with silk. It can be bought at the adjoining shop. Of course, I got some skeins. No way I could resist.

Yarn Cones New Lanark - Foto: Sabine Frisch

Lots of colour choices in the mill shop.

Sources and useful links: 

New Lanark Shop

Website New Lanark 
Britannica: Robert Owen

Kate Davies Blogpost on New Lanark


Take Two. Knit Sneakersocks Vintage Style.

sneaker socks

It has been a while that I posted. I made a short holiday in Scotland at the beginning of June. I still owe you a blog post on that because I visited New Lanark World Heritage Site. Needless to say: I bought yarn. I took pictures at the mill and will definitely show them here. I also visited Saar Alpaka – and took lots of beautiful pictures of gorgeous alpacas. There will be a blog post, too. I promise.  But first I have to move. If you follow me on Instagram, you know my big WIP:  I am re-decorating an old flat. So I am busy painting, instead of knitting or blogging.

Anyway, I managed to finish some small knitting projects which I wanted to show you here very quickly: Two pairs of sneakersocks.

Daisiez: Sneakersocks Vintage Style

Daisiez sneakersocks are knitted from the toe up with an easy lace pattern and a short row heel. They have ga picot edging which makes a cute finish. I also knitted some extra short rows at the back of the heel to give the socks a better fit.


Lilaks: Sneakersocks with Mesh Pattern

Lilaks sneakersocks have the same features as Daisiez: toe-up, gusset, short-row heel, picot hem. Instead of the lace, I worked a mesh pattern. There are extra rows for a higher heel in the back, too, so – no slipping down the shoes.


What’s your favourite sneaker sock? Mesh or Lace? Both patterns are available in my Ravelry store. There are quite a few project pictures already because I really had wonderful test knitters. A good occasion to thank all of them. Special thanks to Puk, a Dutch podcaster: she showed off her pair of Daisiez in her video podcast. Unfortunately, I don’t speak Dutch, so I cannot understand what she is saying. If you do, head over and translate for me.

The Little Grey Sheep: New yarn favourite!

Blozzome Beanie

When I visited the Hamburg Wollfest last year, the yarn from The Little Grey Sheep was THE discovery for me.  I took home some skeins of the incredibly soft Stein Fine Wool and recently transformed it into my Blozzom beanie. What an enjoyable knit! Reason enough to get in touch with Emma Boyles, the proprietor of The Little Grey Sheep.

Emma Boyles

Emma and her team on Well Manor Farm

Emma Boyles owns Well Manor Farm in Hampshire / UK. She bought the farm together with her husband in 2004. Along with the farm came a conservation plan that made a flock of sheep necessary. In Emma’s family crafts as weaving and spinning have a long tradition, so it did not took her too long to decide that she would use the fleece of her flock to make her own yarn. It was a flock of grey Gotland sheep which gave the yarn its name.

Today the flock has 400 sheep, 200 Gotland ewes. And 200 Stein Fine ewes. Never heard of those? Me neither!  It is Emma’s own sheep breed. She will explain more below.

The sheep are shorn by Susie, the shepherdess. She has worked with Emma since 2006 and Emma states that she runs the flocks like they are her own. Her experience is crucial for the well-being of the animals.

Emma searches for producers and artisans that are keeping alive the British tradition of wool and textiles. That is her trademark. So once the sheep are shorn, the fleeces are sent to Yorkshire for washing, to one oft he two scouring plants left in the UK. After cleaning and washing the fleece goes to Devon, where John Arbon, who, according to Emma, is a perfectionist and knows to get the best out of her fiber, spins it into yarn. Last but not least the yarn goes back to Well Manor farm where Emma hand-dyes it in her beautiful shades.


Stein Fine wool came about as we decided to crossbreed our Gotlands with Shetlands, to further reduce the micron of the wool and increase the lustre in the shetland. We then imported to superfine merino rams, sub 19 microns, to improve the breeding. We decided to trademark the name as people were starting to say they had Stein Fine Wool® sheep. As we keep a closed flock this was not possible. We now have an amazing flock of lustrous very fine wool sheep.

Susie Parish, the Sheperdess

Susie Parish, the Shepherdess


We shear between Christmas and New Year, this is when the fibre is at its best to keep the sheep warm and is full of the lovely oils and healthy and shiny. Once shorn, they are snuggled up in the barn to keep warm until they are turned out after lambing in early April. Normally sheep are shorn in the summer months, this is when their new coat is already starting to grow and they have shut off the oils to the old coat causing a break in the fibre.

Little Grey Sheep

Fine Stein Sheep all snuggled up in the barn.


I am a self-taught dyer and really I do not see working with colour as a job. I just love it, a little like a little girl in a sweetie shop. My mum always said I should go to Art College but I decided on electronics. 30 years on, I realise she was right, mums always are! I love to experiment with different methods from painting to dip dyeing. We are always looking to improve everything we do from lambing to wool quality to labelling and colour range. It is is a mission.

Fine Stein Sock

Thank you, Emma, for answering my questions.

Besides from the Gotland and Stein Fine Wool, The Little Grey Sheep produces “Hampshire” a yarn with an interesting story: The Gotland and Fein Stein fleece from Well Manor Farm is worsted spun as it has a long staple. But there was still quite a lot of short fleece left which was about 50 mm and under which would not spin worsted. Plus Susie shears also for other farmers, which were too small to get their fibre spun or did not want to. Some started bringing the fleece to Well Manor Farm for hand spinners. Emma and the team then decided it would be a great idea to produce a traditional woollen spun yarn. Hampshire was born. A yarn which is still soft and luxurious but with character. Turning what was being wasted into a yarn.

Check out all the yarns from The Little Grey Sheep here. Emma ships wordwide.

I enjoyed knitting my Blozzom beanie and mittens with Emma’s yarn very much. You can find my pattern here. I know, it is warm outside in the Northern hemisphere. But if start now, and you will have to look forward to something cosy in winter 😉

Blozzom Beanie

Blozzom Mittens

Blozzom mittens are worked with an afterthought thumb

3 Questions to indie-dyer Saskia from Ovis Et Cetera

Ovis Et Cetera Texelaar

In my column “3 Questions” I would like to introduce you to inspiring people and their work. Today I would like you to meet Saskia, the indie-dyer behind OVIS ET CETERA. Saskia is originally from the Netherlands, lives in Northern Germany and is married to an American. Her horses are from Shetland and Iceland and her dog is from Mexico. The form quite an international family, don’t they?

Part of the family.

Saskia and I met via Instagram last year when she testknitted my SockNo1 pattern with her wonderful hand-dyed yarn. We started a little collaboration together: I designed a pair of socks for her sustainable yarnbase Kempisch Heideschaap which is sourced from fleece of the sheep that are grazing the heather fields in the Netherland. Very often this fleece is discarded which is a pity. It is spun to a very wooly yarn that is great for colourwork. I like that a lot. So the idea behind the collaboration was to design a pair of colourwork socks in order to show of the best the yarn base and Saskia’s incredible feeling for colours. In the process Saskia send me a lot of miniskeins to swatch, deciding on the final colour was not easy. You can see my swatches on Instagram.  The result of the collaboration was a kit of three 50g skeins of yarn and my AztekSockz pattern which is available ins Saskias Etsy shop.

Saskia Maas

Saskia Maas

Here are my questions to Saskia:

1. Tell me about your different yarn bases: What is special about them?

All the yarns I sell are non superwash, which I find very important. Wool is such a beautiful material, it is just perfect the way it is. No need to change it with chemical treatments. I am proud that I have 4 different non superwash sockyarn bases. Two of them Dutch grown and breed specific, I think that’s pretty cool. The sockyarns are Kempisch heideschaap sock, Texelaar sock Herba and Igneae. The Dutch yarns get spun in Germany and England. Herba and Igneae are both grown and spun in South America. Herba and Igneae I chose because they are 100% made out of natural fibers. Ramie is a plant fiber and is very strong and durable. Then I also have Quaduple Dutch, a very interesting blend of Shetland Merino Alpaca & Blue du Maine, all Dutch grown. A soft and lofty laceweight. And relatively new is Kempisch Heideschaap DK, a characterful 100% Kempisch Heideschaap wool DK yarn. 

Detail of Koru Cardigan (Design by Francoise Danoy) knitted by Saskia in Igneae.

2.  Colours are your thing, aren’t they? You have a great palette of colours, so well balanced – What inspires you?
Ovis Et Cetera Texelaar

Ovis Et Cetera Texelaar Sock

Thank you! Everything inspires me. A coat somebody is wearing on the street … I make a picture in my mind and will try to recreate the colour. Pinterest is a great source of inspiration. And fashion.

3. Saskia, even if you use sustainable yarns as bases you do not use natural colours to dye your yarn. Isn’t that a contradiction?

I don’t think so. I very consciously decided for this dyeing method. Acid dyes use far less water and heath than natural dyeing. The dye I use is heavy metal free. By always exhausting my dye baths and reusing as much water as possible I think this way of dying has the least impact on the environment. 

Thank you for the interview, Saskia!

Here is the link to OVIS ET CETERA Shop. Take a look at the wonderful dyeings and yarn bases. As mentioned before, the yarns are non-superwash, so they need some extra kindness: washing by hand. But doesn’t you hand-knit garment deserve some extra love?

If you are curious about the AztekSockz – the pattern can be found in my Ravelry store.

AztekSockz knitted in Kempisch Heideschaap Sock

Free Pattern for Chunky Lace Shawl

gestrickter Schal

Lace pattern only for fingering or lace yarns? No, absolutely not. like a scarf that is long and cosy. My Chunky Diamonz Scarf is a warm and cosy scarf worked with big needles in a rustic chunky yarn mostly in garter stitch. It features a classic lace diamond pattern and looks equally nice from both sides.

Perfect from both sides!

As a warm welcome on my blog, I would like you to gift a free Download for the pattern on Ravelry. Follow the link and use the coupon code “Chunky”. You will receive a free PDF, no strings attached.

Chunky Lace pattern

Chunky yarn and diamondy lace pattern.