Shepherds on Wearing Wool…

As you know, our theme this year for WOVEMBER has been ‘Closing the Gap’.

We wanted to do this because we believe it is wrong that textiles derived from oil are allowed to appropriate the pleasant associations of WOOL for their marketing strategies. We also feel that the more information there is in the public domain re: where WOOL comes from, the harder it is for us consumers to be misled regarding the composition of our clothes.

We also wanted to highlight the work, culture, history and traditions that make WOOL such a distinctive and exciting textile. WOVEMBER has been lucky this year to have some thoughts from several shepherds. As the people closest to the source of WOOL, their comments on Wearing Wool seem especially fitting to a ‘Closing the Gap’ theme. In one of the quotes we have here, the shepherd is wearing a sweater (mostly) made from the wool of one individual sheep!

Sue Blacker – shepherd to a flock of coloured Bluefaced Leicester and Gotland sheep, Cornwall, UK

My early yarns were all from my own sheep, before I bought The Natural Fibre Company and I still have some (I have been designing an updated version of a Guernsey-style tunic for around 8 years, which is the standing joke in the office).

The difficult bit is that most of our stuff lasts – and is intended to last – for a very long time!

I regret to say that I have and regularly wear garments which are over 10 years old!

I have been thinking of suggesting that people could consider the cost of our yarns as an investment, based on the number of years they will last compared to non wool yarns – so yarn years of possible use by a careful owner can justify the price.

Sue Blacker with her sheep, photos © Douglas Bence

Diane Falck – shepherd to a small flock of Ouessant sheep, Normandy, France

August 14, 2012 – A Future Shepherdess ?

Sporting a black Ouessant beret and holding Taygète, a black Ouessant ewe lamb, it looks like my sister Pam might just be a future shepherdess !

Only time will tell !

Originally published on the Spinning Shepherd blog here, photo and words © Diane Falck

Susan Gibbs – shepherd to a mixed flock of Cormo, Cotswold and Babydoll Southdown sheep and Angora Goats, Virginia, USA

I bought this sweater 20 years ago at a farmers market in Washington D.C. and I wear it nearly every day in the winter. I wear it to feed the sheep and work around the farm, or when I’m running errands. It’s almost like a coat for me.

When I first bought it, it wasn’t particularly soft but it has softened up a bit over the years. Most remarkably, it hasn’t pilled the way sweaters knit from softer yarns are apt to.

Originally published on the Juniper Moon Farm blog here, photo and words © Susan Gibbs

Lesley Prior – shepherd to a flock of Bowmont Merino sheep, Devon, UK

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!

Originally published on the Devon Fine Fibres blog here, photo and words © Lesley Prior

Louise Fairburn – shepherd to a flock of Lincoln Longwool sheep, Lincolnshire, UK

Despite popular misconception the dress was extremely comfortable to wear. Although the dress is heavy, once adorned the weight is evenly spread and not at all noticeable. I also didn’t feel the heat as the dress just deflected the suns rays in much a similar way that it would protect and self-regulate the sheep in the field.

Photos and words © Louise Fairburn

Sara Dunham – shepherd to a small handspinner’s flock of sheep Kentucky, USA

Jester is one of our oldest Jacobs and a personal favorite. The sweater is homegrown, handspun and handknit out of Jester’s wool. Well, except for the last two inches up around the neck where I ran out of his white and had to splice in a little bit of one of his adopted family, Annabelly.

Mia – a lilac Jacob from Sara’s flock

The sweater turned out great. Everything blocked out just the way I’d hoped – Gotta love wool.

I tried to pick color patterns that reflected his special wide sweeping “jester hat” horns.

And I used a duplicate stitch to add a touch of dark gray to the big areas of light gray. Fun and easy to do.

Thank you Jester. I love your sweater.

Originally published here on the Punkin’s Patch blog, words and image © Sara Dunham