Warm, cosy knitwear is the key to any happy winter, but when facing a chilly season in which most of us will hold off turning the boiler on for as long as possible, a sturdy jumper is all but mandatory. But rather than turn to high street for poorly made, rarely warm pieces, or expensive foreign brands – made all the more expensive by Brexit’s import taxes – why not opt for a something crafted by independent crafters on home soil?
We have a long tradition of sheep farming in this country, and a similarly long tradition of knitting, spinning and milling; and with so many excellent brands both new and old producing beautiful knitwear on our doorstep, there’s never been a better time to buy Brit knits.
Best for: Cottagecore enthusiasts
While many brands import their wool from abroad, Herd founder Ruth Alice Rands sources her fleeces directly from 40 Bluefaced Leicester sheep farmers in Northern England, a breed of sheep that makes the finest and softest fleece found in the UK. In the unusual position of owning her supply chain from end-to-end, she then commission processes the wool within 150 miles of the farms naturally, using organic detergents and plant dyes at an industrial scale, and now stocks the first range of commercially naturally dyed yarns in the country. Her knits are warm enough for the windiest of winter walks, and soft enough to wear against the skin.
£195 - £44
Best for: rock n’ roll knits
Sisters Cassie and Isabel Holland initially launched HADES back in 2016 as a project to produce jumpers featuring the names of some of their favourite punk bands. Then Alexa Chung wore a ‘The Smiths’ jumper to Glasto 2016 and the brand took off. Using 100 per cent Australian lambswool spun in a mill located in the Yorkshire Pennines, the pieces are produced in a family-run factory in Hawick in Scotland in limited runs. They’ve now branched into cotton printed skirts, chunky cardigans and a colourful collection of alphabet print jumpers and scarves that make brilliant Christmas gifts.
Price: £90 - £280
Best for: elevated wardrobe staples
“We work with five yarns and five makers and we know them all,” says Buffy Reid, who left her job as a publicist at Gap to launch British knitwear label & Daughter with her father, who had a long career working in wholesale for knitting mills, back in 2013. The brand, which makes elegant forever pieces from 100 per cent natural wool (mostly from Australia) spun in mills in the UK and Ireland, has become a firm favourite among the style set. An antidote to mindless consumerism, these are beautifully constructed, timeless pieces designed to pass down from mothers to daughters.
Price: £235 - £425
Best for: chic crewnecks and everyday staples
If you’re in the market for the perfect, classic taupe cardi or an oversized navy crewneck, Navygrey is the ethical name to know. Founded by Rachel Carvell-Spedding in 2019, the brand specialises in timeless, understated pieces that are all handmade in the UK. The main wool used is a Scottish-spun lambs wool FROM AUSTRALIA certified by Responsible Wool Standard, and the second used is 100 per cent British Bluefaced Leicester wool sourced exclusively from a collective of farms in the North West of England. Some of the pieces are thick and chunky, while others are finer and perfect for layering; but it all slots straight in your everyday wardrobe.
Price: £65 - £375
Johnstons of Elgin
Best for: super soft, luxurious cashmere
Celebrating its 225th anniversary this year, Johnstons of Elgin is one of the oldest knitwear houses in the UK, with one of the last remaining vertical weaving mill in the country. This means the brand undertakes all production processes (dyeing, spinning, weaving and finishing) at their one site in the Scottish town of Elgin, where they employ over 1000 craftsmen and women. A founding member of the Sustainable Fibre Alliance (SFA) for cashmere, the brand works to source ethical cashmere from China and Mongolia and responsible wool from Australia. The price point is a tad higher than some of the other brands on this list, but look after them and these beautifully crafted knits really will last generations.
Price: £45- £4000
Best for: Fisherman jumpers and outdoorsy vibes
Another Brit-knit old-timer is Peregrine, who has manufactured chunky fisherman knits from a factory in Manchester using mainly British wool for over 220 years. For its autumn 22 collection, Peregrine has begun working with regenerative wool, sourced from a regenerative farm in East Sussex, and has committed to transition to 100 per cent regeneratively sourced British wool by 2026. Regenerative farms use 100 per cent pasture-fed livestock, to reverse climate change by rebuilding soil health and restoring degraded soil biodiversity - resulting in both carbon drawdown and improving the water cycle. “The UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world and we are supporting farmers working to turn this story around,” says Tom Glover, Peregrine’s Managing Director. Ethical, unisex and the recent alpine collection is perfect for keeping cosy at après ski.
Price: £100 - £150