needle felting

Hardy Herdwick sheep!

Felting sheep with Herdwick wool

You may have read in a previous post that I try to buy only British wool now. This is due to the high standards of animal welfare in British sheep farming and shearing. Included in a recent batch of British wools that I ordered from World of Wool, was 100g of grey Herdwick wool.

I decided to look more into the breed of  Herdwick sheep and discovered their sweet little faces, their attractive colouring and the fascinating facts behind how they live!

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Herdwick sheep are born with black wool and then as adults have a grey or brown body with white face and legs.

Herdwick facts

They are very hardy sheep that live on the fells of the Lake District, England.

The lambs learn about the area where they should be grazing from sticking close to their mothers. They have been bred for hundreds of years to be territorial,  they do not stray from their area and fences are not required. They are “heafed” to the fell.

Herdwick sheep help to maintain the beautiful rugged landscape of the Lake District by grazing in otherwise inaccessible areas.

“Herdwyck” means sheep pasture. They have been recorded as far back as the 12th century.

Beatrix Potter , the children’s author, was an expert Herdwick breeder.

Felting a Herdwick

I have made some Herdwick sheep in the past but discovered a renewed desire to felt some after a lovely weekend away in Ambleside in the Lake District. On the journey up we saw many sheep in fields and I was looking forward to seeing my first Herdys! For me it was like going on safari and being excited to see my first giraffe!

On a walk into fields in Ambleside, I saw some sheep with the characteristic grey colouring. So exciting!! (Well for me, husband didn’t seem as impressed)

 

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Actual real life Herdwick sheep!

 

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Some wool! Although tempted, I left it where it was.

Back home I got my wool out and got stuck in. I decided to make three at once so I made three heads using white Shetland batt and three bodies in grey Shetland batt. I then covered the bodies in grey Herdwick wool and the heads in white Bluefaced Leicester wool.

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The Herdwick wool has long fibres and is rough in texture and wispy so might not suit felters who like everything smooth and neat, but I love the fact that it feels and looks so natural.

I added features to the face and felted the head onto the body.

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I made four little legs, again from white Shetland batt, and again adding a layer of Bluefaced Leicester wool. This is more time consuming but the batt is so much easier to felt larger shapes with due to its fuzzy nature, it also works out a bit cheaper.

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I felted the legs on and felted on extra grey Herdwick wool to cover any white bits around the joins of the legs and heads. ( I might be better putting the Herdwick wool on last next time)

Here’s the finished result

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This one is for sale in my Etsy shop.

 

 

 

 

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wool

Using British Wool

Cruelty free wool?

Copy of 1180px x 360px – sheep banner 2I love animals and am a vegetarian. When I saw a post about someone using vegan materials to crochet with because they thought using wool was being unkind to animals, it made me stop and think.

I love using wool and the fact that it is a natural material, I love the feel and smell of it. I wanted to know if I could be more ethical and animal friendly whilst still using wool.

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My learning journey..

When I first started felting I bought “wool” from Hobbycraft. As time went on, and I started buying from more specialist wool shops, I started noticing differences in the textures of the wools and that wool came from different breeds!

Looking into sheep friendly wool, I came across the organisation British Wool.

What’s so good about British Wool?

  • They promote high standards of animal welfare
  • They provide shearing skills training to their wool producers
  • They educate on best industry standards

and also worth bearing in mind…

  • UK sheep farms are small, the farming is not intensive
  • The sheep are raised naturally outdoors on pasture

They have detailed Welfare regulations on their website and excellent information on the 60 breeds of sheep that we have in the U.K.! Phew! Looks like I have a lot more learning to do!

Where can I buy it?

Looking to buy British Wool? I can thoroughly recommend the excellent online shop “World of Wool”. It sells a wide range of natural and dyed wool. The British Wool symbol is displayed on all the relevant wools making it easy to search for. Another useful source of information about British wools and their qualities.

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Herdwick sheep made using Herdwick wool!

 

What about merino wool?

Merino wool – people often wonder about whether this is cruelty free, as mulesing is a cruel practice that happens at some merino sheep farms. Please be aware of this and buy your merino wool from sources that buy from non mulesed sheep farms, as I do.

 

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Yellow merino wool on the inside adds a pop of colour

 

 

So, next steps for me?

  • To continue to search for, buy and use British wool wherever I can.
  • To look into buying from individual British farms and farmers, where I can be assured of the animal’s welfare
  • To consider some vegan options and alternatives
  • To continue to specify the type of wool I use in my felted products