A grey wool blanket square with lace motif in the centre sits next to a small ball of grey wool and a set of double pointed needles.

British breed blanket – North Ronaldsay

The first breed to venture in to my British breed blanket is North Ronalday. I didn’t know what to expect from these seashore dwelling, seaweed eating sheep but I have been very pleasantly surprised.

Where are they from?

Unsurprisingly the North Ronaldsay sheep hail from the Orkney island of North Ronaldsay. In the 1830s the method for managing the land began to change. Sheep were set aside to focus on crops and cattle but on the island of North Ronaldsay they managed to find a way to keep the sheep despite these changes. The islanders built a dyke around the island above the high water line in order to keep the sheep off the land and on the sea shore. The dyke is still in use to this day, with the whole community coming together at certain times of the year to look after the sheep and maintain the dyke. The sheep live on the sea shore all year round and their metabolism has adapted, enabling them to survive on a diet of seaweed.

What is the wool like?

The first thing I noticed when unwinding the skein was the lovely ‘sheepy’ smell. This smell is quite faint now after washing and blocking so if you aren’t keen on your woollens smelling of wool then don’t be disheartened.

Both the ball and the finished square are soft to the touch, despite the visible guard hairs poking through and when knit up the finished fabric has good drape and bounce.

I did find this wool to be a little splitty, particularly when working the decreases in the lace section, but with a little more care and attention this didn’t become a problem and the yarn itself ran smoothly through my fingers whilst knitting.

How does it wash?

I washed and blocked this swatch as I normally would, by hand in lukewarm water with little agitation. The square blocked nicely to size and retained it’s dimensions after unpinning.

I did knit up a simple, smaller swatch and threw it in the washing machine on an ordinary 40 degree cycle to see how it would fair. I wasn’t surprised when it came out felted and though it did stretch back in to the right shape it was smaller than it’s original size.

What could it be used for?

The final square is very light and would make a lovely cardigan or jumper. I wore the square against my neck/chest for a few hours as this is where I am most sensitive, and although I did notice a prickle initially I soon forgot it was there. I think that this would be quite a robust yarn that would also be good for items that need to be a little more hardwearing such as hats or mittens.

Where can I find out more?

The yarn I have used here is from A Yarn from North Ronaldsay and they sell yarns and rovings direct on their website. It is available in Aran or 2 ply hanks in a range of natural colours and lengths or yarn, though at the moment stock is limited.

You can also find North Ronaldsay yarn at Blacker Yarns as part of their limited edition and rare breed range.

Though I didn’t know what to expect from this yarn I have enjoyed knitting with it very much and think the subtle grey/brown colouring is going to be a beautiful addition to my blanket.

Have you knit with yarn from this breed before? I’d love to here what you thought of it. Let me know in the comments below or on Instagram. You can find me @TheConsciousKnitter.

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