Woolly roundup

It’s time for the WEEKLY, WOOLLY ROUNDUP!

Thanks again everyone for all the Wovember work you’re doing to raise the profile of WOOL FOR WHAT IT IS on your own blogs, in your knitting projects, in your felt-making and – yes – in your Christmas plans. I learned this week about Christmas Tree Skirts from Katherine Williams, who sent in these photos of a 100% WOOL Christmas Tree Skirt made for her sister and brother-in-law. I did not know of the existence of Christmas Tree Skirts until this week, and I am glad that my introduction to the idea of a giant circle of embellished fabric to go under the Christmas tree has come in the form of an example crafted in 100% wool felt.

Katherine writes “While we were dressed only partially in wool the day we finished this project, our Christmas trees will forever be clad in 100% wool, as will the little elves, dragons, and other decorations on their skirts.”

I am not organised enough to have any Christmas-related wool projects on the go, but I am aware that ’tis the season for the tupping’ and I’ve been enjoying the updates on the Juniper Moon Farm blog concerning the important business of putting the ram to the ewes. Do you agree that Solomon the RAM is awesome?

I first met a ram when I was staying with Julia Desch in 2009 and she was deciding how to partner up her sheep for the best wool results. She explained that – in order to keep a ram away from any bunch of ewes – 6 fences were necessary to separate them. In spite of her conscientious efforts to keep Boy No. 1 in one field and Boy No. 2 in another field, their urge to find females led them astray and I was greeted by two very curious mansheep who came right up to where I was staying and peered in through the window to check that no stray ewes were wandering around needing their attentions. I was very struck by the strong, ovine pong of these rams, their fearless, proud manner, and their chest-out manly-sheep walk. I do not have photos of Julia’s magnificent Wensleydale boys, but I did photograph these noble rams at Mudchute Farm a couple of years back.

Whitefaced Woodland Rams, Mudchute City Farm, London, photo by Felicity Ford

To understand the relationship between WOOL and rams a bit better, I can thoroughly recommend Barbara Parry’s amazing essay The Ram is half the Sweater, which featured in Twist Collective magazine a few years back; it’s is one of my favourite essays about the relationship between sheep and wool.

All this talk of ram behaviours reminds me of a video I should share with you all which was made by my friend Rob Hawthorn for the National Trust’s My Farm project. Billed to become “a Ewe-tube sensation” Rob’s video was shot from the vantage point of a Portland Ram being put out to the ewes. I am assured that a very experienced farmer supervised the affixing of the camera which gives us this perspective and that no sheep were harmed in the making of the video. I wasn’t sure that the video was very dignifying to the sheep when I first saw it, but on balance I think the choice of Rossini’s William Tell’s Overture Finale as a soundtrack is suitably epic, and a befitting musical tribute to the masculine prowess of the ram in question. What do you think?

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RIDSixrW9VI&w=560&h=315]

In other woolly news, I think it is worth drawing attention to the fact the the longterm collaboration between Finisterre UK and Devon Fine Fibres has borne fruit in the form of a hat made in 100% British Bowmont Braf yarn which is now on sale to the general public on Finisterre’s website. Lesley’s post about the hat and her back calatogue of posts detailing the process of getting a commercial product made out of UK wool to market make for very heartening reading. I am delighted to see a hat which has been made out of 100% UK wool, by a company with declared interests in sustainability. I also like the breed-specific way that this particular woollen garment is being marketed, and the fact that the story of the hat’s production is shown on the Finisterre website with photos and texts. This kind of transparency in marketing and production is to be encouraged.

As Kate wrote in her post about her Deco knit in Corriedale, (which is a Merino cross) as is the Bowmont Braf breed. However there was news in the Wovember inbox this week regarding some 100% Merino creations by Jody Hayes, who handknits sculptures of native New Zealand birds from New Zealand Merino. Jody was inspired to write to us about her birds after she saw Caroline’s beautiful needle-felted animals in our post earlier in the week. I love the idea of describing the birds of a country in the wool of that land.

Handknitted Tui, knit in New Zealand 100% wool Merino by Jody Hayes

Handknitted Tui, knit in New Zealand 100% wool Merino by Jody Hayes

In final news, I wanted to thank commenter Liz Evans for her tip about a wonderful book she remembers from childhood entitled The Wool Pack. It can be found on any of the rare and out-of-print book stores and it’s by Cynthia Harnett. A sort of historic novel/children’s adventure story, it provides a lot of information about the wool trade in Britain in the 1400s.

Have a wonderfully woolly, Wovembery weekend! And look out for our sinister Saturday post…