All Wool and a Yard Wide

Ever since we bought our first Hebridean sheep from Wester Gladstone Hebridean Sheep, I have wanted to do something with their beautiful fleeces. We have since acquired Shetlands and Soays, so our range of fleece colour is lovely. In October, at the Scottish Smallholder and Grower Festival I met some wonderful women doing amazingly beautiful things with native breed wools. From spinning, to peg looming, to needlefelting, there was no shortage of ideas.

Inspired by my visit, I bought a needlefelting kit and some carded wool. I have always enjoyed craft making of all kinds but working with wool is quite addictive.  There’s something about the feel of carded fleece in your hands and the gorgeous variety of natural colours that occur in the undyed wool of our native breeds.  I am not an expert at all and I don’t know anything about the Bradford count or staple length but I am fascinated by wool and I’m keen to learn more.

I am part way through making a pegloom rug but rapidly running out of carded wool, so now I’m spending time on ebay looking for a second hand drum carder so that I can be ready for our own fleeces this year. The peglooming itself is a relaxing and easy process and the rug grows satisfyingly quickly.

My latest favourite thing to make from wool is handfelted soap. I have made single soaps for little gifts and soap sets as Christmas presents. The soaps were shaped and hand felted to resemble river pebbles using organic soap from Caurnie Soaperie & 100% native breed wool. I handfelted a Marigold & Orange soap in Jacob wool (making a brown pebble), a Heather & Lavender soap hand felted in Herdwick wool (making a light grey pebble) & a Nettle soap hand felted in Hebridean wool (making a dark grey pebble). To use the soap you soak the soap pebble in water and rub gently with both hands, the felt soap starts to lather. Felted soap lasts at least twice as long as ordinary soap. The exfoliating wool felt shrinks as the soap does, leaving a tiny felt pouch at the end (if you want you can cut a hole and fill it again with soap!).

We have put our ewes in lamb to a white Shetland tup this year so we should get some good white shearling fleece in the future as well as the black Hebridean, brown Soay and Katmoget and Moorit Shetland fleece.

There is so much to learn and little by little I am acquiring a bit more knowledge. There are some great websites and books on the history and development of wool production however, I think just handling wool, experimenting with it, feeling what its qualities are is a fine and experiential way of learning about wool.

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