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About us

North Ronaldsay Yarn started off as a community based project under the auspices of the community council. Then in 1996 it became established as a company.

The original idea was to buy the fleeces from the growers at a higher rate than was being paid by the wool board to put some value back in the fleeces and send it south for spinning. The yarn was then returned and mainly sold locally as wool or knitted garments.

In 1999 a sheep conference was held on the island as part of the science festival. At the conference one of the delegates first sowed the seeds of spinning our own yarn on the island with a mini mill supplied by a Canadian Company. As it became increasingly more difficult to find large mills prepared to do small runs of fleece we then looked more seriously at the idea of spinning our own fleece.

In 2001 we went out to Prince Edward Island to visit Belfast Mini Mills, who produce scaled down spinning equipment for cottage industry. The small scale and flexibility of the equipment demonstrated that we would have more control over the selection of fleeces, and could produce small batches of high quality yarns.

It took 2 years to secure funding before the equipment finally arrived in spring of 2003 occupying the newly refurbished building at the New Lighthouse owned by the North Ronaldsay Trust.

With the use of the mini mill, the company has evolved from selling aran and machine knitting yarns to selling rovings, batts, felt, yarn and knitwear.

The process

North Ronaldsay Yarn - Machine

On receiving the Fleeces they are first sorted, graded, skirted and washed.

North Ronaldsay Yarn - Machine

After  being washed and dried the fibre goes through the Picking Machine where it is opened and conditioning oil is sprayed over it to protect the fibres during further processes.

North Ronaldsay Yarn - Machine

In the next processing stage, the coarser fibres are removed as it goes through the dehairer.

North Ronaldsay Yarn - Machine

Next stage is the carder where the fibre is combed out and made into rovings or batts. It is now ready for handspinners or felters.

North Ronaldsay Yarn - Machine

For further processing in the mill, the drawframe is the next stage. 2 or 3 bins of rovings goes through this machine at a time being stretched and further re-aligned before spinning.

North Ronaldsay Yarn - Machine

The wool is spun into singles on the 8 spindle spinner and then plied on the 4 spindle spinner.

North Ronaldsay Yarn - Machine

The twist is set on the steamer  before going on to cones or into hanks.

The felt machine makes sheets of felt approx. 36’’ x 48’’ in various thicknesses.