“It’s been an amazing journey” - Heptonstall farmer’s wool to be used by local knitwear firm

Project Lonk, collecting Lonk sheep off moors, August 2021. Photography by Joanne CrawfordProject Lonk, collecting Lonk sheep off moors, August 2021. Photography by Joanne Crawford
Project Lonk, collecting Lonk sheep off moors, August 2021. Photography by Joanne Crawford
Wool from sheep at a farm in Heptonstall is being used by a businesswoman in the same village for her luxury knitwear.

Nic Corrigan, who owns Whitehall Studio, used yarn from a mill in Aberdeen, but wanted to source more local materials.

“I was getting increasingly concerned about where my wool and yarn came from,” said Nic, who has has lived in Heptonstall since 2003 and has been running her own business for around seven years.

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“There’s a farmer in the village called Ed, he and his wife Laura are having problems trying to get rid of their fleeces.

“The sheep have to be sheared for hygiene reasons but the price of wool has dropped so dramatically that it’s worth next to nothing, his fleeces are worth 30p, and it costs far more to shear them and transport them.

“So he was looking for something to do with them.

“Even though we both live in Heptonstall we didn’t know each other, we met in Instagram because I saw a post about his sheep.

“We got together last Autumn and started talking about it, saying I wanted to be able to knit with yarn that’s as local as possible but I couldn’t find any, and he was trying to find an end use for his fleece.

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“We spent six months going through it all. I found somebody who could be the middle person, who has a PhD in British wool and is an expert in how it’s processed into yarn and designers can use it.

“When she came on board that was like the final piece in the jigsaw.

“We’ve found a yarn mill in Huddersfield that can spin it for us, so we’ll have a product that’s sheared in Heptonstall, soun in Huddersfield, back to Heptonstall and knitted into jumpers, so it’s a 30-mile round-trip from raw material to finished garment.

“It’s called Project Lonk because the sheep Ed rears breed Lonk, which are a rare breed that live on the moors above Heptonstall, on Heptonstall common.

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“There are all sorts of environmental benefits to the way he farms, which is small-scale and regenerative, so those sheep are grazing on the moors and helping the bio-diversity.

“We launched a kick-starter to raise the money, because it’s going to cost about £5,000 to get the first batch of fleeces spun into yarn, and we reached the target within less than 48 hours.

“We’ve raised £11,500 from people who want to support us. It’s been an amazing journey.

“It’s overwhelming, we’re gobsmacked by the support we’ve received so far.”

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Farmer Ed Sutcliffe, who is originally from Mytholmroyd and moved to Heptonstall around three years ago, has been running his farm above Heptonstall for ten years.

Nic hopes to turn the wool into new products available for her customers before the end of the year.

“We’ve just finished the shearing, so we’re waiting for our slot at the yarn mill, which should be within the next week or so,” Nic said.

“Then it takes eight weeks to process it, so the yarn will be back in November, at which point I can start knitting with it.

“The products will be available from December, and there will be jumpers and a small range of accessories, like wrist warmers, scarves and hats.”

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