Photo by Alice Owen

Guest Post: Words from an NSS Enthusiast

Many of you will be familiar with the yarn and pattern club I run with Clare Devine called The Neighbo(u)rhood Sheep Society focusing on promoting yarns from small flocks and independent producers. The following blog post is a guest post written by Alice, a very kind Neighbo(u)rhood Sheep Society subscriber & enthusiast (among other things as you will find out). So grab a cuppa and read on.


I’m in the awful limbo of waiting for a reviewer’s comments on an academic journal article.  I’ve only been an academic for four years, but this is definitely the worst bit of the job.  And this time it feels important, because for the very first time I have written about something that I’m really, personally passionate about – yarn business!  I was lucky enough to get one of the spots on Neighbourhood Sheep Society 2016 and was blown away by the time, thought and talents that came together in delivering NSS2016.

Photo by Alice Owen

My research at the University of Leeds circles around business and sustainability.  What forms of organisations, doing what kind of business, lead to good outcomes for people and the planet – as well as turning a profit?  Until now, my “other identity” as a knitter – and a mildly obsessive one at that –  has been separate from my (paid) work. But as I spoke to more and more people running their own small businesses, particularly businesses where there’s some kind of physical product that the business owner creates, I started to wonder whether there’s something specific about craft businesses that stimulate joy, community, well-being, skill, heritage …  and I started to write down how we might understand that magic, to see if it could apply elsewhere.  As part of the research, I’m mapping out the range of businesses that are involved with producing, spinning, or dying yarn in the UK.  The list got to 200 in no time at all and I know it’s not yet complete.  This could be a really important area for the rest of the business world to learn from.

Photo by Alice Owen

Part of my resistance to writing academic papers is that I don’t really believe it makes a difference in any meaningful way.  So what does make a difference? People like Jess and Clare doing projects like the Neighbourhood Sheep Society – that’s what!

In the paper that I’ve submitted for review, I’m making the case that what NSS does is really important in the way it brings breeds, farms and ideas of place, identity and conservation into the economic value chain- and that’s not even mentioning the lovely, lovely colours and textures of NSS yarn and projects.   Yes, of course I’ve signed up for NSS2018!

If you would like to sign up for NSS 2018, there are still some spots available if you fancy a treat in the new year.