Lancaster wool shop champions 15-year-old shepherdess

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A wool shop in Lancaster has taken on a young helper in the form of a teenage shepherdess.

Kate Makin founded Northern Yarn in May 2016 after returning to her home county of Lancashire, opening the shop in Kings Arcade in 2018.

She currently sells three lines of northern yarn that she sourced and created herself: Coorie, Mamó and Methera.

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Continuing her commitment to sheep farmers in the region, Kate is now championing 15-year-old shepherdess Jess, a Lancaster Girls' Grammar School pupil who started a flock of Shetland sheep using her own money and contacted Kate to ask whether she would be interested in the fleeces.

15-year-old LGGS pupil Jess.15-year-old LGGS pupil Jess.
15-year-old LGGS pupil Jess.

Kate said: “I absolutely loved that Jess was beginning her journey in shepherding and was already thinking how to make use of the beautiful Shetland fleeces.

"I really wanted to meet her and the lovely sheep to see if we could make this work.”

Although the list of requirements for processing fleeces can be prohibitive, Kate’s instincts told her she could make it work and with a mill space booked for another project that had fallen through, she felt it was fate.

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And when she met the sheep and their young owner, the quality shone through.

Kate with Stripe the sheep.Kate with Stripe the sheep.
Kate with Stripe the sheep.

"Jess is a natural with animals and has a confidence that belies her years, gained from helping her grandad show his prizewinning Longhorn cattle," Kate said.

“As Jess showed me the fresh crop harvest of dark fleece, she told me she recognised the value and didn’t want it to go to waste. "The fleeces were gorgeous – soft and such a fine crimp – I was happy to take them all and pay double the wool board price, which Jess was happy with.”

After avoiding some huge cows (and getting her feet nibbled by a sheep called Stripe), Kate left with a pile of fleeces in her car boot, though this was not enough for even a small run at the mill.

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By chance, another farmer visited her shop not long after and Kate immediately put her name down for all of the fleeces from Dianne’s small flock of Shetlands.

Northern Yarn in Kings Arcade, displaying three colours of Methera yarn.Northern Yarn in Kings Arcade, displaying three colours of Methera yarn.
Northern Yarn in Kings Arcade, displaying three colours of Methera yarn.

The dark fleeces from Jess’s sheep blended with Dianne’s lighter coloured flock will lift the shade to a rich chocolate brown and allow Kate to produce a limited batch of woollen-spun yarn.

“A two-farm yarn from two amazing women who love Shetland sheep!” said Kate.

The fleeces will go to Halifax Spinning Mill next month and the resulting yarn will be woollen spun and is likely to be 4-ply in weight.

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Price details and images of the new yarn will be available from Northern Yarn at that time.

Kate sells a range of local wool alongside her own, as well as more well-known UK brands such as West Yorkshire Spinners and Jamieson’s of Shetland.

She also stocks needles, bags, stitch markers and many other useful accessories.

Kate holds a range of classes and events at the shop, and runs various knitting/crocheting/spinning groups, to which all are welcome.

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These include most Mondays 6.30-8.30pm and Tuesdays 2-4pm at the shop, and one evening a month at the Gregson Centre - please see the website for details of the next meeting.

For more information contact Kate by email at kate@northernyarn.

Northern Yarn is open Monday-Saturday 10am-4pm.