And here she is, our third yarn supplier for Strickmich! Club 2018: Sue Blacker and her wonderful Blacker Yarns! Sue is not a handdyer, but a yarn composition virtuoso: Her small spinnery in Cornwall that she has been running since 2005, specialises in all natural yarn with wool from British sheep. “The breeders bring or send us their fleeces, and we will make beautiful yarns from them – even in small quantities”, Sue says. Which fibres are suitable for which kind of yarn, whether it should be woollen or worsted spun and how it should be plied is her expertise. “We have learned over time that you cannot make everything out of every wool. The characteristics are very important: thickness, drape, elasticity, luster and whether it’s hard-wearing or not, and we help our clients to work that out”, Sue says.
Of course, Sue employs this knowledge for her own yarn brand “Blacker Yarns”, as well: She carries pure breed yarns like Shetland, Gotland and Bluefaced Leicester, but also blends with silk, linen or compositions of different wools. “Tamar” for example is a blend including Wensleydale, Teeswater, Leicester Longwool and other similar fleeces, all consisting of long, lustrous hairs that give the resulting yarn a special shine – perfect for shawls and flowing sweaters. Yarns like this will also help sustain rare sheep breeds, which is a very important aspect of Sue’s work.
Sue Blacker must be one of the most astonishing people of the fiber world: She studied history and worked in the City of London as an analyst until the late 80s. “In 1989 the industry changed, and my work became less interesting.” So she and her husband decided to start a new life in Cornwall, where Sue moved into consulting charities and small businesses. And she bought a couple of sheep: “We had ground, we needed the grass cut, and that’s what sheep do!”
Sue and her flock
When the sheep had to be shorn, Sue took their fleeces to the spinning mill for processing. A couple of years later, she heard that the owners wanted to retire and were looking for someone to take over their business – and saw an opportunity. “I love opportunities!”, Sue says. She moved the mill from Wales to Cornwall, bought new equipment for spinning more different kinds of yarn and added a dyeing house. “I wanted to do something for small farmers and knitters alike by making beautiful yarn from British fibers,” she says. “When we started out, first we had to explain to everyone why they should knit with wool and not acrylic”, Sue remembers.
But Sue is not only an entrepreneur, a fiber expert, a sheep breeder and wool activist (take a look at her blog), she also knits and designs. “I like to play with texture as in guernseys, cables or brioche. Broken rib is one of my favourites, it makes wonderful fabric with tweeded colors”, she says. “I only knit items that I want, and I like projects that are suitably mindless.” Sue also has a big knitting library – “and many more ideas than time!”. Her favourite yarns are those that have body and “a presence. I don’t like it if a yarn runs through my hands like cooked spaghetti!”
The color palettes of Blacker Yarns are the most beautiful ones that I have encountered so far. And I am very excited and happy that Sue will provide Strickmich! Club with one of her yarns in a new and exclusive colorway!