Friday, November 3, 2017

a mountain view

Today, I'm sharing a yarn story with you about a new company I've discovered through Instagram. Luckily, Paula is running a wonderful contest right now for anyone working with her yarns. Read more about that contest here!

mosaic photos courtesy of Moel View Yarns
Paula Goosen's appetite for natural color was ingrained early. Born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa, she remembers the stunning vistas that surrounded her home growing up, and carried these images with her when her family, looking for a more stable environment, relocated to the U.K. when she was twelve, leaving many of their belongings and home behind. In the U.K., they lived a frugal lifestyle with little room for waste or luxury. The few belongings they did have were precious, and Paula remembers organizing her personal things into pleasing arrangements in the corner of her bedroom, drawing satisfaction from the light and color placement of each object.
Paula carried these tenants of frugality and appreciation for small things into her adulthood. She learned to knit with acrylics and microfibers, but yearned to use the beautifully soft natural fibers she saw in shops and stores. At one point, she broke down and bought her daughter a white vest knit in Merino wool, only to have it become a dulled gray as the sticky hands and wayward spoons of childhood discovered it. In turn, Paula discovered natural dyeing, a ready-made solution in her own atmosphere: black beans from the cupboard, nettles from the garden, carrot tops and tea bags saved after every meal found new lives as color in garments. The simplicity and availability of using what was at hand appealed to her, and as she explored the colors these materials could make, she fell in love in earnest. The colors felt fresh and comforting, familiar and reminiscent of the places she had lived and traveled. She began buying natural materials to dye on, knowing that they could be refreshed and re-used infinitely more than their synthetic counterparts.

Eventually, Paula moved to Wales, this time with her own family (three small children, 5, 3 and 1). The dramatic landscapes stunned her -- their moody tones and breathtaking scenery left her brimming with artistic inspiration. With new materials available to her and a found passion for natural fibers, she dreamed up the idea for hand-knitting yarns dyed in an array of natural tones. While her husband worked, Paula found herself sketching the view out her window of Moel Famau, the mountain that now adorns each Moel View Yarn label. Three months later she 'set up shop' and opened her little world up to others online with the hope that someone would love her natural tones the way that she did. As she expanded, she began to use not only foraged materials, but also extracts, allowing herself to play with new methods and techniques. The process is artistic for her, and she doesn't write down recipes or strive to repeat colorways perfectly. Each batch is an individual moment in time, immortalized in color on wool.


Within her first year, Paula got a message from a follower on Instagram. The knitter was vegan, and lamented that while she adored the colors that were on offer, she didn't feel comfortable buying yarn without knowing more about its origins. Eager to please and unsure about what might be available, Paula began researching wool production, seeking yarn that could be truly considered ethical and that could be sourced start to finish. She wanted to be able to offer her customers a product that she knew for certain came from well treated sheep that were loved and cared for throughout their lives. She found a slaughter-free farm in the Cotswold Hills in South-Central England. (Slaughter free in this case specifically means that the sheep are raised from the beginning to the end of their lives only for wool. They are never slaughtered for food or put down for being past their prime. The sheep live their lives out wandering the land and being brought in for shearing as needed.)

The farmer raised a mixed flock of Blue Faced Leicesters and Wensleydale sheep. The resulting blended fiber was slinky and silky, but also downy, soft and fluffy. She took some home and was delighted to discover that it absorbed the dyes as if they had meant to be together all along. Partnering with the enthusiastic farmer, Paula decided to do a test run with a small batch, but then added the yarn as a regular feature after getting positive responses from knitters around the world. While not every vegan knitter is interested in trying her Ethical yarn, she has discovered a niche of knitters of all backgrounds who are seeking a guilt-free wool to use. I was fortunate to receive samples of this yarn while writing, and it is unlike anything else I have in my stash. The mixed breed wool creates a yarn with exceptional sheen that takes rich, full-bodied color. Wooly but not rough, I could see this yarn being ideal for a variety of garments, although those with sensitive skin may want to wear a light layer beneath. It is likely that anything knit with this yarn would last a long while without pilling or becoming worn.

I've cast on a bit with a few skeins of Ethical that Paula sent my way, and I love the wooly rustic-ness of this yarn. While I probably won't get a chance to visit her idyllic Welsh world anytime soon, I feel more connected to an area of the world I have never visited through the stories she tells on her beautiful Instagram feed. I love seeing new colors arrive. and hearing the stories behind them, too.

Do you have a yarn story or yarn maker you feel needs some attention? I'm always looking for beautiful new wools. Shoot me a message or leave me a tip in the comments. 

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