Our Yarns and Materials

OUBAS styles are very linked to the tones and shades found here in the landscape. The connection to natural beauty seen in the landscapes and using these shades in our knitwear means that they are always harmonious and the palette has a timeless quality to it. There are shades of mosses, lichens, stones, the brackens on the fell sides and the deep greens found in the local forests that come into the collections. That connection and sense of place gives us a connection to the landscape and nature that we seem to have lost.


On a human level, using natural fibres breathe with wear, and are therefore much more comfortable. There is a natural drape and loftiness to using pure wools, and its natural characteristics are both antibacterial and insulating. It is a diverse fibre and using different breeds of sheep means we can achieve different textures and structures within a knit.


OUBAS founder Kate Stalker holds two cones of yarn in grey and maroon


Environmentally, we are using a natural resource which can be replenished and doesn’t use harsh chemicals or finite resources such as oil to be produced. We source our organic cotton from the Better Cotton Initiative, ensuring that the cotton we do use has been grown sustainability, the landscape managed regeneratively, and the farmers treated fairly. 

We source our yarns from both UK and Italian yarn mills, known for the quality of the raw fibres they use, and also their environmental credentials. We select our yarns for their own inherent characteristics and also for the process involved in their production. We look at the dyes used and the standards adhered to.


A selection of maroon, blue, pink, cream and green wool yarns against a cream backdrop with natural foliage on either side

Fibres

The raw fibres we use for our knitwear are:
British wool, cashmere, organic cotton, Donegal merino, fine lambswool and linen.

You can read more about each of these, including how we source, history and their natural benefits below. Sustainability is integral to the OUBAS design process, to read more about this see here.


British Wool:
We use a British Wool spun in Yorkshire, which was in our Men's Cable Sweater in 2020.

For this Autumn (2021) we are working closely with local farmers here in Cumbria to develop our own yarns for our knitwear in the Southern Lake District. This will be a blend of different fleeces working with the properties of each fibre to create something unique.


Cashmere:
We source our cashmere from a Scottish cashmere mill who have been spinning cashmere for the last 150 years. Generations of knowledge have passed down within this mill, and it is these ancestors who we honour today but using their yarns. Since 1897 they have processed cashmere on the banks of Loch Leven in Kinross, and are now the only remaining Cashmere mill in Scotland.


Loch Leven hosts a world-renowned RSPB nature reserve. All the water the mill uses returns to the loch and is thoroughly cleaned to make sure the brown trout, pink-footed geese and 35,000 wintering birds here can thrive.

The cashmere is triple checked before passing through the mill to be turned into the yarn we receive at our studio in Cumbria. The fibres are dyed before they are spun, which gives a superior colour finish and handle and the dyes are all environmentally friendly, with the water used in this process returning back to the Loch.


Organic Cotton:
The cotton we use is organic, spun in an Italian mill with zero carbon emissions using organic dyes. It is one of the most sustainable cottons we could find due to its environmental and ethical credentials.

The cotton used is sourced from farms who are part of the Better Cotton Initiative. This is a global not-for-profit organisation and the largest cotton sustainability programme in the world. It is a method of standardisation meaning that the cotton is grown ethically, offering better working conditions and savings of up to 90% of water in its production. The farmers all care for the health of the soil and work to enhance the biodiversity of their land, using it responsibly. 


Merino (Donegal Yarn):
Merino sheep herald originally from Spain, originally the breed is thought to have been created around the 12 century when farmers introduced breeds from the British Isles and North Africa to their local stocks, which is generally thought of as when the breed would have been created. Spain was the worlds only producer of Merino and this was instrumental in the country's economic development. Merino grow a beautiful, fine micron fibre and are most commonly reared for fibre in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, as the breed do best in semi-arid, dry conditions. The fine count of the fleeces mean it can be spun much finer than many British Wools, which is why we choose to use it for our knitwear.

All the merino we choose for our knitwear is sourced carefully from non-mulesing farms. This is an often controversial practise to avoid 'flystrike' in sheep.

Donegal is a traditional yarn spun in Donegal, Ireland. It has beautiful slubs within the yarn adding specks of colour to the knit. There is no other traditional Donegal, we use the only one still spun and dyed in Ireland.


Fine Lambswool (Merino):
The fine lambswool is from the merino sheep. We have chosen a yarn spun and dyed in Scotland at the same mill as our Cashmere, due to the expert knowledge the mills have sorting by hand the best and highest grade fleece for their yarns. The yarn is one of the highest grades of lambswool due to it's fine micron count (the fineness of the fleeces themselves) and quality and has a really soft hand feel. It is lovely and light whilst retaining all the warmth of wool and has a lofty feel.

Most of the lambswool shades we use are mélange shades, meaning that the fleeces are dyed into 5 or 6 shades before they are spun, giving a finished depth of colour which is rich and beautiful.

The raw fleeces are sourced from South Africa due to the merino sheep needing warm, dry conditions. They are all from ethically certified farms who do not practice mulesing.


Linen:
The linen we use is within a blend of Organic Cotton in our Easy Tee. The linen is spun by the Italian mill using GOTS certified dyes with no emissions. Linen itself is a strong fibre, second only to silk. It is durable and breathable and is hypoallergenic. It gets softer and softer with wear.



If you would like an insight into the OUBAS studio to see the yarns first hand, you can visit us in Ulverston, Cumbria.