One morning in June 2018, Zoë and I packed up picnic, flask, one husband, one mother and many teabags and hit the road. We had no idea how many fleeces would fit in our cars, and not really a clear idea of how many we would be allowed to buy, so we took both of our seven seater cars to the wool depot, as well as Zoë’s VW Polo!
When we arrived at the massive warehouse we were overwhelmed by all the carts and carts of raw fleece, sorted by breed and quality. The wool graders were all so friendly. Apparently they are quite accustomed to hand spinners turning up to buy themselves a fleece or two to prepare from scratch, but I think they were a little bemused when we told them how much we wanted and the type of fleece we were after! I gathered that Welsh Mule (a breed combination of Welsh Mountain and Bluefaced Leicester) wasn’t the most regularly requested fleece. However, they were very accommodating and took us over to the right carts and commenced hauling out bundles of rolled up fleece on to the floor for us to choose from. They soon realised that we hadn’t the first idea what to look for in a good fleece (graders apprentice for many years to learn their trade) and that we were just so excited to be surrounded by all of this yarny potential! Efficiently, the best fleeces of the bunch were chosen, swiftly joined by a heap of Bluefaced Leicester. It was all packed up in a canvas sheet and heaved into the back of Zoë’s car, and we were off!
Well, the journey to Ceredigion to the mill was an adventure! We followed the sat nav, as you do, and quite soon deviated from the main roads (I say ‘main’ in the loosest sense of the word, as none of the roads in Mid-Wales are particularly big!) and were led down a progression of winding country lanes. I was completely bemused when we ended up on a moor, treeless as far as the eye could see, populated only by some hardy sheep (who were liberally bedaubed with turquoise paint) amidst bracken and scrubby bushes. I’ve lived in Mid- and South Wales for over thirty years, and whilst I knew about the many mountains and valleys, I had no idea that we had vast areas of moorland too.
Eventually we arrived at the mill. Roger helped us unload the wool and showed us around the workings of the mill. It was fascinating seeing the looms with partially woven cloth as well as all the machines which would process our fleece and turn it into lovely, lovely yarn!
Zoë was sad to leave all the wool behind, and more or less immediately started counting down the six months which we had been told was the time it would take to produce the yarn. I had daily messages for a while, “Is the yarn ready yet? How about now? Now?!” which of course never grew old!
Next up; branding!