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I recently co-led a textile tour to Northern England, the land of Beatrix Potter, the Brontës, All Creatures Great and Small, and a whole lot of sheep.

Northern Yarn

Northern Yarn is a small but mighty shop owned by one of my wool heroes, Kate Makin.  She carries a variety of British yarns, like Jamiesons of Shetland, West Yorkshire Spinnery, and John Arbon, but the real gems are the yarns she has made from local sheep, 100% traceable from sheep to skein. She also carries yarns from other local producers.

She currently has two yarns that she keeps in stock, and she does special, limited run yarns.

Mamó is a smooth DK-weight yarn, named after her Irish grandmother who taught Kate to knit. It’s spun from Blue Faced Leicester and Poll Dorset sheep and dyed in clear colors.

Methra is a fingering weight yarn with a light twist spun from Zwartbles, Cheviot, Shetland, and Blue Faced Leicester.

The Zwartbles is a naturally dark brown sheep;  mixing just a touch of it with white fleece gives a taupe grey base that when dyed gives a rich depth of shade, a little nudge to a good-dirty side of color. The name Methra means four, and comes from a traditional sheep counting system used in Northern England: yan (one), tan (two), tethera (three), methra (four).

Susan Crawford

We were lucky to visit the Queen of Vintage Shetland knitting, Susan Crawford, at her studio. We heard the story about her Vintage Shetland Knitting Project, and about all of the work it took to make vintage garments into patterns accessible to modern knitters.

She has her own range of yarns in a color range developed and dyed with her daughter Charlie.

Two of my favorite yarns are ones she used in her latest book Echoes, which is spectacular.

Fenella (above, right) is perfect for colorwork. A fingering weight yarn, in a custom blend of 75% Exmoor Mule, 25% Bluefaced Leicester, it has wonderful elasticity from the Exmoor and softness and drape from the BFL.

Her yarn, Barn (above, left) captured my heart. It’s locally spun out of Jacob and white and black Shetland. It’s a light worsted/DK yarn, worsted spun with spectacular stitch definition.

The sweater on the cover of Echoes is knit from Barn. The color range inspired by the Lake District is rich and just a little bit moody because of the addition of the black Shetland.

Susan put out so many samples from her Shetland books and Echoes for us to try on. I don’t think anyone left without at least one sweater quantity of yarn.

Hill Top & the Brontë

It’s not all yarn in Northern England—we had to feed our literature loving hearts with stops at Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top Farm and the Brontë Parsonage. They were perfect breaks between wool adventures.

Nibthwaite Grange

Photo from The Wool Library.

Nibthwaite Grange is a farm run by John Atkinson and his partner Maria Benjamin in The Lake District National Park. They raise traditional and some rare breeds of cows and sheep, and practice conservation grazing.

Maria and John are also part of The Wool Library with Zoe Fletcher, a yarn company that produces sustainable British yarns for knitters and British ready-to-wear designers. These three have been wool heroes of mine for so long, I found it a little hard to talk to them when I first met them.

Zoe, known as The Woolist on social media, has a master’s degree in British sheep breeds. Together with Maria they design and create yarns with fiber purchased above market rate from local farmers. They make breed specific and blended yarns.

These are a few of The Wool Library’s yarns that excited me. On the left across the top is a 100% Teeswater yarn, a lustrous, drapey yarn.

Under the Teeswater is 100% Cheviot yarn, a durable springy yarn, with excellent stitch definition for sweaters.

On the right is a Cheviot/soy blend, all the great characteristics from the perfect Cheviot yarn, but adding just enough soy fiber to make it next-to-your-neck soft.

Do you ever run across a yarn that you love just for the boldness of the idea? This yarn is one of those for me. It is a chainette structure (like an i-cord) made from 100% Cheviot fiber.

It got a delighted guffaw from me when I figured out exactly what it is. I only bought two skeins, and I am regretting my restraint. This is some of the springiest yarn I’ve ever knit with.

Cheviot has a strong crimp pattern, making it elastic and smooshy, add to that the chainette structure and the result is a bold yarn. I will likely make a hat, unless a I order more and make a vest or a cardigan.

There was just a little excitement for the yarn and other goodies at Nibthwaite Grange.

All Creatures

To round out our wool hunting trip, the part of Northern England we traveled through was a hot spot for the filming of All Creatures Great and Small. We missed the filming in Grassington, the town that stands in for Darrowby, by just a couple of days. We did see the house (left) that is used for the exterior of Skeldale House.

Thanks to designer Ann Kingstone we had lunch at the Craven Arms (right), the pub they use for the interior for the Drovers Arms, the pub in the show.

About The Author

Jillian Moreno spins, knits and weaves just so she can touch all of the fibers. She wrote the book Yarnitecture: A Knitter’s Guide to Spinning: Building Exactly the Yarn You Want so she could use all of the fiber words. Keep up with her exploits at


  • Thank you for sharing this wonderful trip! I would love to participate in a trip which offers a similar itinerary. Do you have any plans on offering another trip? There is so much to learn from you. Thank you!!

    • Me too.

    • If you drop a note to our tour coordinator, Jean, she’ll will put you on the list to get all the information when it’s available,

  • Oh what a lovely trip! The textures and colors of the yarns shown were exquisite.
    I ,too, would love to travel with you Jill.
    What’s next?

    • If you drop a note to our tour coordinator, Jean, she’ll will put you on the list to get all the information when it’s available,

  • I am also interested in a trip like this – or exactly this trip if you do it again! Please let me know if/when you plan another one.

    • If you drop a note to our tour coordinator, Jean, she’ll will put you on the list to get all the information when it’s available,

  • It was lovely to read about the area of England I was born in. I will definitely be on the lookout for some of these yarns next time I visit friends and family. A little disappointed there was no mention of the Herdwick sheep that is local particularly to the Lake District.

    • Yes, that was a big omission on my part! We saw lots from our bus window but never ‘met’ any on this trip.

    • Yes, I see now that was a big omission on my part! We saw lots from our bus window but never ‘met’ any.

  • Thanks Jill for this lovely little tour encapsulating British yarn and Beatrix Potter’s home! It makes me want to return to see the things we missed from our first trip over the pond to hike through the Lake District.

  • What wonderful memories of the year (1976) we lived in York and explored all these marvelous places. How I’d love to go there again.

  • I’m sure I’m not the only one here who thinks this must have been a perfect trip! Thank you for sharing it with us, even though now I’m more than a little jealous of you all.

  • Very dreamy article as I think about taking a wool tour. Beautiful photos and the last one is my favorite! Water, land, sheep. Do you know what the dyed splotches are for on the coats of the sheep? Just curious.

    • Dye on the upper rear of the ewes? That is evidence that they have been bred. The ram has the dye painted on his chest.

  • Much fun! Would have liked to be a part of the journey.

  • A Master’s degree in British sheep breeds! Who knew?

  • What a delightful aptronym her name is! Perfect.

  • According to the label, it’s Methera.

  • I love your writing and this article! Please keep taking us to places we have never been and yarns we have never seen (or felt). I love it when your name pops up as the author of a column. Thank you!

    • Thank you so much, you made my day!

  • What a fabulous trip and article! I’m absolutely thrilled by the flourishing of the wool and yarn business again in the North of England. I’m still a Yorkshire lass at heart, even though I’m a Western Washington transplant now, and had to wait over 50 years to achieve my dream of a flock of sheep!

  • What a lovely trip! Please consider visiting (& sharing your adventures) some of the smaller mills here in New England: Junction Fiber Mill, Harrisville, and Battenkill (yes, NY but almost New England) to name a few.

  • Wonderful trip and stories of these beautiful places you visited! I’d love it❤️

  • I vicariously enjoyed your yarny trip.

  • What a wonderful tour! The name of the Zwartbles sheep caught my eye. If it’s dark brown, as described, then “Zwart” must be a cognate of “swarthy” and the German word for black, “schwarz” (which also happens to be my last name). I wonder what language, or what early version of English or Anglo-Saxon dialect, this sheep was named in?

  • I love Knit and Lit trips, and this one sounds fabulous. Thanks for sharing your experiences. Was there any discussion about the beautiful knitwear worn in All Creatures Great And Small? In our house we call that program Vets in Vests!

  • ❤️❤️❤️

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