As Rebecca talked about in her article – the shortest way from sheep to yarn is through your own hands – by cleaning, carding and spinning your own yarn. I am lucky enough to be someone with a very short yarn mileage – approximately 0.01 miles to my sheep from where I process my yarn. It’s a pity I cannot have it mill spun in Ireland. But even so, the UK or near Europe is not halfway across the globe.
I wish there were more options for small yarn producers in this country. All the companies mentioned make great yarn. I use and love the yarn from all of them, and I wish obtaining marketable Irish fleece was not so difficult for them. The interesting thing is that it is available - contrary to popular belief not all Irish wool is only good for carpets - but it is difficult to obtain - for example, as mentioned above, Cushendale are looking to source Galway lamb's wool from slaughterhouses to make a 100% Irish wool, but cannot get slaughterhouses to sort the wool from other breeds yet.
I'm not sure any of our Irish sheep will reach the softness required for Donegal Yarns' Soft Donegal range which is produced from Merino wool. (Though apparently Merino sheep have been kept in Ireland and were possibly used many years back to improve the Galway breed.) But at least some of the mills in Ireland are making use of the unique qualities of our fleece to produce a great product.
However I wish there were more traceability for consumers on yarn - a label of Irish knitwear does not necessarily mean the wool is grown or processed in Ireland, merely knitted into a garment here. Likewise yarn labeling can be misleading for those who do not delve deeper. The realities of the tastes of the yarn market, (favouring softer yarn) and high production costs for small companies mean the yarn miles of Irish yarn will likely always be higher than they could be.
Does it mean these yarns are local yarns? The answer is complicated. And what is most important to you as a yarn buyer? Locally sourced raw materials? Local production of the end product? Yarn miles? Local employment? Animal welfare? Fair trade? Environmental impact?
These are all important to me. And the longer I live on this planet, the more important it feels to tread lightly on it. To make conscious choices over the yarn I buy for my hobby feels important - which is part of the reason I now have sheep. (Unfortunately having my own source of yarn outside my door has not stopped my yarn-acquiring habit!) I would like to know the impact that the choices I make have. I just wish it wasn't so complicated.