North East Yarns
From the sheep’s back to your back
North East Yarns is a cooperative that has a range of sheep, specialising in Corriedale. Several members care for their own flocks, which presents the group with a wide variety of colours from a light silver-grey to a darker charcoal-grey to a nearly black fleece.
“We go from the sheep’s back to your back,” says Pauline Carson who handles administration for North East Yarns. She is also very much involved in the group’s market activities.
Products from the group range from raw fleeces, batts for felters, and tops. Batts and tops vary distinctly. Batts is the product when the wool has been carded but with fibres still crossed over. Tops is when they’ve been combed to lie in one direction.
Taking the wool from the sheep and spinning it into yarn that weaves the fabric of our clothes can actually be a lengthy but interesting process. First comes selecting sheep, Not all sheep have the same shade of wool and some lambs are born with patches of light and dark fleece which can draw in the interest of a hand spinner. The Corriedale is the most popular breed among members which originated from a cross between Merino and Lincoln.
“We have found that Canberra has a very active craft community”
Next, the fleeces would have to be pooled to allow for the processing of a suitable quantity onto a machine. The fleece are tested to avoid breakage and an amount of up to 400 – 500kg is processed. Scouring then ensures that matter such as grass, seeds, dirt and lanolin are removed to aid the next steps in producing quality yarn.
Spinning involves carding, twisting, and plying to provide yarn that can either be hand or machine knitted. About 65% of the original raw fibre is expected to be retained for knitting. It’s this process that transitions the yarn into a finished garment to be knitted, shaped, stitched, and labeled ready for sale.
The group regularly participates in markets situated in northeast Victoria. The Bendigo Sheep & Wool Show is one major event with the Canberra Wool Expo being another as shown in their over decade-long participation.
“We have found that Canberra has a very active craft community,” says Pauline. “The climate in Canberra lends itself to people wanting wool.”
Garments produced include a range of jumpers and ponchos complemented by warm accessories such as gloves, beanies and scarves. Dyes are also a part of their product range.
“There are so many other people with wonderful products there as well as ours”
On top of its retail store in Glen Rowen, the group receives a number of requests to supply to areas across Australia. While indirectly sold, some buyers have shared that the group’s products go out to different areas in America, Europe, and China. Still, Pauline maintains that North East yarns is mainly a cooperative exercise.
“It’s a hobby that’s turned into a passion for natural fibres,” says Pauline. “It’s a small, but niche market.”
North East Yarns has certainly become quite the regular in annual Canberra Wool Expo. Pauline finds that the two-day event is beneficial for them since they can only come around once a year.
“We always marvel at how well we do,” says Pauline. “There are so many other people with wonderful products there as well as ours.”
Expect their product range to be as consistent and strong. They introduced a new yarn called “ghost gum” which is 70% wool and 30% silk. It was first brought in to the markets last year and they’ve found it to produce a beautiful product that the group continues to be excited about.
North East Yarns is a group that was formed to promote all aspects of natural fibre in the North-East of Victoria, Australia. They describe themselves as an eclectic group of like-minded people who have a passion for wool and natural fibres. Visit their website to find out more.
For the latest news about the Sunday Markets in Canberra, like us on Facebook @Oldbusdepotmarkets.