Kath raises the baa with her wool
It wasn't in Kath Foster's career plan to enter the world of wool, but when she developed a neurological condition as a result of her third pregnancy, she had to rethink her working life completely.
"I'd been working as a dental hygienist for 20 years," said Kath, who lives in Nafferton, near Driffield.
"I spent almost a year sulking and feeling sorry for myself – I was at a loose end. I'd loved my work and my patients."
Then Kath had a lightbulb moment, out in the fields, where her farmer husband Pete and a sheep shearer were busy cutting the family flock.
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"I'd gone up to take the men some sausage rolls and squash," said Kath, who is mum to Susie, 15, Will, 13, and Katie, 6.
"I couldn't resist going up to the sheep when they didn't have the chance to run away, and I started twisting their wool around my fingers.
"I said to Pete, 'we should get this spun and I could knit it', and his response was, 'yes, whatever you want, honey'."
Kath immediately started researching on the internet and applied to local farmers' markets for a stall.
"We have 60 Suffolk X sheep, which are bog standard meat sheep, and their fleeces, which have no commercial value, would normally be bundled up as waste.
"But it's amazing wool," said Kath. "It's naturally very resilient and turns away water.
"When it's spun you have a beautiful fibre of exceptional quality."
Little Houndales Knits (the Fosters live at Little Houndales Farm) was established in September 2010, with knitting yarn spun by the Natural Fibre Company, of Cornwall, from the farm's flock.
When Kath started out, she thought she had better supplement her then humble offering with other beautiful, natural products, including Tasmanian oak handmade knitting needles and MillaMia yarn, a soft merino wool suitable for childrenswear.
These days, the knitting enterprise has expanded to include more of the Nafferton wool, either washed and carded and ready for home-spinners to use, or already made into double-knit and aran-weight yarns, plus lots of quality knitting and crocheting patterns and accessories.
"We have a range of extremely popular Mafana bags that are handmade in Madagascar. They are perfect for crafts, or for hand or beach bags.
"To have home-grown and natural, hand-made products gives us a nice quality edge," said Kath, who has been knitting since the age of four and made her first sweater when she was nine.
"I went to work in a wool shop when I was 14 as the Saturday girl, and I loved it," said Kath.
She now runs a successful website and organises weekly knit-and-natter sessions at the local pub, as well as hosting a number of popular workshops at Little Houndales Farm.
"Little Houndales Farm is mixed, comprising arable, a suckler cow herd and sheep," said Kath. "Sheep are a family tradition and even when times have been hard and many farms have gone out of sheep, we have kept on with the family tradition and continued to keep about 60 Suffolk X.
"I have huge respect for this wonderful fibre our sheep produce and I love to knit in the knowledge that I am knitting natural fibres from happy, contented sheep which are grazing the lush green grass of the Yorkshire Wolds while I knit their winter coats."
Knit-and-natter sessions are held at the King's Head in Nafferton on Wednesdays from 1pm to 3.30pm. It is free to attend and beginners are welcome.
Little Houndales Knits attends Driffield Farmers' Market on the first Saturday of the month and the Humber Bridge Farmers' Market on the first Sunday of the month, from 9am to 1pm at both events.
For more information, contact Little Houndales Farm, Nafferton, Driffield YO25 4LF. Call 01377 255093; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.littlehoundales knits.com
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Any time during Wool Week, which runs until Sunday, just do something with wool – at school, in your local coffee shop, at the museum, on a park bench ... wool is very sociable and it travels well.
At www.campaignforwool.org you will find lots more information about all things woolly, and further links to knitting, spinning, weaving and stitching communities online.