Lesley Prior on Working with Wool…

We have heard from Lesley Prior on ‘Growing Wool‘, ‘Harvesting Wool‘ and collaborating with Finisterre to ‘Process Wool‘. Today we shall hear about Lesley’s experiences of working directly with the wool from her Bowmont Sheep! Lesley is – as well as being a shepherd and an amazing ambassador for wool – a weaver. This is her account of making a blanket from the wool grown on her farm

December 2011, 2011

Last April I threw a project on the loom in order to demonstrate weaving to a friend. I wove a few cms using some odd colours of hand dyed Bowmont I had around with no particular aim other than to use up oddments and show what the process was all about. My Bowmont Merino (and of course I can’t speaks for anything else called Bowmont you might use from elsewhere) handles well on the loom, straight from the cone or taken off and wound into hanks. It’s fairly forgiving as a warp but of course needs a careful sett to avoid making it feel stiff and hard. A loose sett works best to allow for shrinkage during fulling. Personally, unless the design calls for it, I do minimal fulling. Simply washing really.

I’m actually rather pleased with my demo piece. Just a simple twill with random stripes in warp and weft but it makes a really great knee blanket. Last night I used it to good effect here as the wind was whistling round under the doors despite our crackling log fire and our slate floor is cold as ice. A thin layer of soft Bowmont kept me toasty warm round the legs. The miracle to me is how something that can keep you so warm doesn’t cook you when the temperature rises. Sheep do not fry in their own lanolin when they are in half fleece growth here in the summer. 40-50mm of Bowmont Merino on their skin seems to act as insulation against the sun rather than a heating unit. Wool’s insulation properties are amazing. It’s clever stuff!

Anyway, as an example of something simple but incredibly satisfying I thought you might like to see my efforts. My thanks to my Swiss friend Andrea who wove a few cms of this. Her very first attempt at weaving. She will go far!

Many thanks to Lesley for showing us yet another amazing use for Bowmont Merino wool! This post was originally published here on the Devon Fine Fibres blog. All content © Lesley Prior and republished here with her kind permission