Part 5 – Clapdale Wool Making Traceable Knitwear

Using 100% British Wool yarn and tweed has been an important part of our business since we began 35 years ago and we’re proud to manufacture all our British Wool jumpers right here in Britain.

However we’ve always wanted to go that step further, and so in 2021 following a grant from the Yorkshire Dales National Park we launched our Clapdale Wool Project. This innovative project uses wool sourced within 5 miles of Glencroft’s warehouse, paying our local farmers more for their fleeces than they currently get – a minimum of £1 per kg. We’ve used all the breeds and cross breeds on these fields – Dalesbred, Teeswater, Texel, Mule and Blue Faced Leicester – to produce a wool that directly relates to the local area. We also hope to kickstart a circular economy for wool, with a share of 10% of profits fed directly back to local farmers.

We’ve so far written about the background to our project, gathering the wool, the scouring (cleaning) process, the carding and combing and the spinning of the wool yarn which is now available for sale on our website.

Designing a traceable jumper

In the spinning process we created ‘DK’ weight yarn in 100g hanks and also a lighter 2-ply or ‘lace weight’ yarn on 2kg cones, the latter is the yarn weight and format required by most commercial knitting machines.

We wanted to create a truly spectacular jumper from this yarn that we’ve worked so hard over so many years to create.

Our brief:

  • A heavy weight 3 gauge (if possible) jumper – like we used to make in the borders of Scotland in the mid-90s. These really heavyweight jumpers with a kilo or so of wool don’t seem to exist much anymore. We’re using local Dales hill wool so we need a jumper that’s going to keep you warm on the fells of Ingleborough mountain.
  • Unique and different design – We need this jumper to stand out and justify the inevitable higher price caused by the costs of producing our own traceable yarn locally as a small batch. The story of our yarn should not be the only reason you to want own this jumper, we need a jumper that looks like nothing we’ve made before, an iconic design that we’ll be putting in the atrium of our knitwear museum in 50 years time!
  • Reflect the undyed natural yarn – We have only produced ‘undyed’ yarn this year, so it is important to add both depth and shadow to enable this cream coloured yarn to really be seen and appreciated for its natural qualities.

We enlisted the talented designers and technicians at Knitlab North in Northumberland to help us achieve these goals and sent the first cones of yarn over to them in March 2022.

Cones of Clapdale Yarn
The finished cones of Clapdale Yarn that we used to make our new Thwaite jumper

Testing the yarn on the machines

The first step once the yarn was received at our designers / prototypers was to test it on their machines. Would it run through the machines well without snapping or getting caught up? Then once we made swatches how did these behave once washed and framed?

Test swatches of knitwear patterns
The first three swatches made with our Clapdale wool that proved that it worked well on the knitting machines

The Zig-Zag Jumper

We knew from our first swatches that the yarn performed well on knitting machines but we were limited to lighter weight ‘5-gauge’ patterns on the machines we were using. Our designers therefore booked in a day at the Stoll GB Knit Design Centre in Leicester in late 2022 to see what we could do on their bigger machines.

The result was the zig-zag pattern jumper, featuring a deep zig zag on the front and a combination of vertical lines and zig zag on the back. We knew once we saw the sample we had the jumper that met our brief – something really special and unique, that reflects the undyed yarn and is extremely heavy.

Thwaite Zig Zag pattern plain cream jumper - samples
The first sample of our zig-zag jumper

The ‘Thwaite’ Jumper

The next stage in jumper production was to produce a full size range of 6 jumpers from XS to XXL to ensure the sizing was correct, and this was then followed by our first limited edition production run of 50 jumpers in March 2023. We made a total of 57 jumpers, including the first 6 + 1 samples.

We chose to call the jumper ‘Thwaite’ after ‘Thwaite Lane’ that runs past the fields where some of the sheep whose wool was used in this jumper graze. The word ‘Thwaite’ is of Old Norse origin and means ‘a meadow’, ‘clearing’ or ‘paddock’.

The final touches to this jumper was putting it all together in a box with items that really told the story of the steps we’ve been through to get to this point.

  • A booklet telling the story of Clapdale wool and the Thwaite Jumper – signed and numbered for each of the 57 jumpers.
  • Raw wool from one of the sheep whose wool is in this jumper – this is what is scoured, combed, carded and spun to make the yarn for this jumper.
  • A 100g hank of Clapdale Yarn and darning needles for repairs – we want this jumper to be last forever and passed down generations.
  • A photo print of William Dawson, our local farmer with his Dalesbred sheep who supplied some of the wool in this very jumper.
  • A cedar ring for moth repelling
The Thwaite Jumper presentation box - showing the jumper in the box with the booklet, photo print, contents list, cedar ring, hank of spare yarn and darning needles.
The Thwaite jumper and the story of how we got here, all in a box.

We hope you like the Thwaite jumper and if you choose to purchase one of this first run of 57, we hope it keeps you as warm as the sheep on the fells around us, where the wool used in it comes from.

We look forward to producing more Thwaite jumpers in the near future, as well as creating more unique designs from our own traceable local Clapdale Wool.

Next steps

Follow the journey across our series of blog posts about this unique traceable wool project, from the heart of the Yorkshire Dales.

Coming 2023 – Clapdale Wool batch two – We’ve grown the project to 7 farms and 3 tonnes of wool in 2022/2023 as we look to create a range of dyed knitting wool and a world’s first pure Dalesbred woven tweed cloth.

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