Winners for WOVEMBER 2014

Hello!

This is the very last post for WOVEMBER 2014, announcing the WINNERS for the WOVEMBERWAL and the WOVEMBER PHOTO COMPETITION.

WOVEMBERWAL

You may remember that there are three categories for the WOVEMBER WAL: The Golden Fleece Award is given for the sheepiest project – i.e. the project that most thoroughly celebrates the inspirational and material qualities of THE SHEEP. This year that prize goes to Lee Hawkins:

I started keeping Leicester longwool sheep last year due to them being such a rare UK breed.

They are such fantastic sheep, each brimming with their own personality.

I had my first lambs this year

And my first shearing – This was done by a young man in his final year of agricultural college – a fantastic chap George who really knows his stuff and coped very well with my girls (who are all rather large)!

I’m determined to make full use of my lovely longwool fleeces but am pretty novice at all things creative, so this is my first project:

Dyeing the fleece
And then weaving it onto a pegloom to make a rug
.

Congratulations Lee!

The Sheepy Rainbow Award is given to the project which most creatively exploits the palette of colours provided by natural sheeps’ wool shades, and this year we felt the clear winner in this regard was Fran Rushworth with her beauteous Texel wool bathmat, created from hand-spun and hand-crocheted wool. Her blog post about the process is one of the most inspiring things we’ve read in ages – here’s the link:

I have nearly finished making a rug from a Blue Texel fleece and I shall call it Dappled Thing.

This has been a huge pleasure of headlong spinning and never mind the lumps, yarn fatter or thinner as the mood of the evening took me; crocheted to go with the flow of a skein, it holds my glory in a landscape plotted and pieced – for anyone else, it’s a bathmat.

bathmat worked in handspun and crocheted wool

bathmat worked in handspun and crocheted wool

Congratulations, Fran!

The Ewe-sain Bolt Award is awarded to the crafter with the fastest fingers, i.e. to the greatest technical feat of WOOLWORK completed during the WAL; this year we had a lot of competition for this entry – you all have been working really fast and really hard with your WOOL – however in the end we reckon that Linda Drage’s wonderful lopi cardigan has pipped everything else to the post. Cast on on 1st WOVEMBER and completed in a flurry on WOVEMBER 27th, even the buttons are woolly:

My Wovember WAL project was my Wovember Icelandic. Made with 100% Icelandic wool. I felt that I learned a great deal with this project, and thoroughly enjoyed it. This project was arranged particularly to fit in with Wovember.

yoke cardigan worked in Icelandic Lopi

yoke cardigan worked in Icelandic Lopi

WOVEMBER PHOTO COMPETITION

This year we ran the photo competition through instagram to try and reduce the administrative burden of manually resizing and uploading hundreds of photos; this worked really well and we will be doing the same thing next year!

We love the high WOOL + JOY factors in this beautiful photograph: it is a true celebration of the warming powers of WOOL! Congratulations, Fidlstix, you might have invented the best hash-tag ever:

#howmanyhandknitscanyouwearatonce? @fidlstix

#howmanyhandknitscanyouwearatonce?

A photo posted by fidlstix (@fidlstix) on

In coming days an electronic copy of Aurélie Colas’s wondrous collection “Castle Fraser throughout the year” will be winging its way to you. This is a collection of accessories inspired by one of the grandest Scottish baronial tower houses – its architecture, decoration and history and we felt these designs could only give further inspiration and woolliness to your illustrious wardrobe.

Balustrades & slates hats, Windows and Balustrades socks, Wood engraving mittens. Image used with kind permission. © Aurelie Colas

Balustrades & slates hats, Windows and Balustrades socks, Wood engraving mittens. Image used with kind permission. © Aurelie Colas

Thanks also to Fidlstix for many other lovely photos posted throughout the month, connecting final garments back to their roots in the landscape and in industry:

Just about my favorite Wool Week photo- @ateliermeg enjoying the fragrance of fleece- #wovember2014

A photo posted by fidlstix (@fidlstix) on

Regram of walking past the green door and a room full of fleece at Jamieson & Smith #wovember2014

A photo posted by fidlstix (@fidlstix) on

Sharing these Sheepy Friends from Iona celebrating #wovember2014

A photo posted by fidlstix (@fidlstix) on

More sheep who call Iona home. #wovember2014

A photo posted by fidlstix (@fidlstix) on

WOVEMBER 2014 also saw the emergence of a very exciting podcast called Woolful. Created by Ashley Joy Yousling, this podcast offers insightful conversations with makers from the world of fiber and textiles and especially folk involved in the wool industry. The sheepiness of the endeavour is embodied in the @woolful entries to the Wovember photo competition:

Getting very excited about the Woolful podcast launching next Tuesday the 25th. @woolful

My hope is to bring something new to the fiber community that will inspire makers, dreamers and wool lovers alike. This podcast is unlike any other, focusing on the fiber industry as a whole, from sheep to sweater, including guests from every facet of the craft and industry. Knitters, dyers, fiber processors, shepherds, designers, spinners, proprietors and so many more.

We salute you, Ashley, and would like to offer you a prize of an electronic copy of Aurélie Colas’s gorgeous sheepy draughts pattern.

"Sheepy Draughts" by Aurélie Colas

“Sheepy Draughts” by Aurélie Colas

Thanks for all the sheep you shared during Wovember through your instagram feed and your important podcast!

Day 2 of sheep school. 🐏👍

A photo posted by Ashley Yousling (@woolful) on

Have you any wool? 🐏

A photo posted by Ashley Yousling (@woolful) on

On the theme of sheepy-knits, who could argue that Donna Smith’s beauteous sheep baa-ble is deserving of some form of wonderful woolly prize? The sheep! The wool! The colourwork! The fun!

Sheep get everywhere #wovember2014 #Christmasdecoration @donnasmithdesigns

Sheep get everywhere #wovember2014 #shetlandwoolweek #christmasdecorations #knitting

A photo posted by Donna Smith (@donnasmithdesigns) on

It is especially lovely that just a few days earlier, Donna posted a photo of the inspiration for her wonderful baa-ble:

Favourite colours: Shetland black, Moorit, Shetland White, katmoget #shetlandsheep #wovember2014

A photo posted by Donna Smith (@donnasmithdesigns) on

One sack of Blacker Designs yarn is on its way to you, Donna, in colours that fairly match your baa-ble: Congratulations!

blacker-yarns

Another sack of yarn is on its way towards Jed Baxter, who managed to get some truly beautiful photos of sheep looking AT HIM rather than running away. We are not sure how you managed this feat but we think you are some kind of sheep-whisperer and should be rewarded with yarn.

Three Portland sheep on a misty day. #Wovember2014 @jedbaxter

Three Portland sheep on a misty day. #Wovember2014

A photo posted by jed baxter (@jedbaxter) on

Two Black Welsh Mountain chew straw while a Portland keeps the peace! #Wovember2014 @jedbaxter

Two Black Welsh Mountain chew straw while a Portland keeps the peace! #Wovember2014

A photo posted by jed baxter (@jedbaxter) on

As you can see, many of our WOVEMBER photo entrants included several photos rather than just one, and one series which especially stood out to us was captured by knittertraceyalice:

I’m spinning up 2 natural colors of Maine raised Icelandic wool for #wovember this year! For a yoked sweater idea I have – wool from @portfiber – my awesome LSS! @knittertraceyalice

#wovember 2014 spinning.

A photo posted by knittertraceyalice (@knittertraceyalice) on

#wovember2014 — Yarn. Hopefully sketching & swatching today–

A photo posted by knittertraceyalice (@knittertraceyalice) on

#wovember2014

A photo posted by knittertraceyalice (@knittertraceyalice) on

#wovember2014 plying. Maine raised Icelandic wool from @portfiber

A photo posted by knittertraceyalice (@knittertraceyalice) on

#wovember2014 spinning. I finished over the weekend. On the bobbins, it doesn't seem like enough yarn for a sweater–

A photo posted by knittertraceyalice (@knittertraceyalice) on

What a wonderful sense of labour, thoroughness, care and skill in these images that show fleece slowly becoming yarn. We can’t wait to see the sweater, and would like to offer you the Jamieson & Smith gift voucher prize. We will be in touch!

Jamieson__Smith_Shetland_Wool_Brokers_Ltd._Real_Shetland_Wool

Thanks everyone for another stunning round of WOVEMBER creativity; that’s us over and out for another year.

SEE YOU NEXT WOVEMBER! :D

If you are already missing the daily wool fumes, we highly recommend that you join our Ravelry group to keep the woolly warmth going on throughout the year.

YOURS IN WOOL,
TEAM WOVEMBER XXX

Wovember Words: Cats and Wool

For this last WOVEMBER WORDS post of 2014 we celebrate our feline friends.

The strong association of wool with cats is indicated every year in the wondrous photos that you submit to our photo competition. Every wool worker I know with a cat attests to the special affinity that this beast feels for the following items: raw sheepy fleece; perfectly prepared fibres, ready for spinning; heirloom hand knits; balls of yarn; and anything made of WOOL that is precious to the cat owner. Cats love WOOL for its warming, insulating properties, and seemingly cannot wait to nap on/play with it. I was reminded of this association while reading the highly recommended book “Guddicks – Traditional Riddles from Shetland” by Amy Lightfoot and Laurie Goodlad, for several guddicks (riddles) in this wondrous tome use Shetland dialect words for WOOL to allude to marvelous CATS!

“Guddicks – Traditional Riddles from Shetland” is a wonderful book containing many guddicks (riddles) from Shetland. Guddicks were once an important part of the evening’s entertainment on long nights on Shetland crofts; household members would make up riddles for each other to guess. Shetland riddles give insights into all aspects of Shetland life. As in well-crafted Cryptic Crossword puzzles, in Shetland Guddicks, care seems to be taken when playing with associations between the clues given in a riddle and the answer to that riddle. The construction of guddicks is playful, inventive, poetic, rich. In the examples below, WOOL words are used as riddles for which the answer is CATS. I cannot help but wonder if the Shetlanders of the past who invented these beautiful guddicks had naughty wool loving cats which gave them the idea to use wool words to describe their feline friends?

To WOOL WORDS, lovers of WOOL, lovers of CATS and the beauty of embedding wool in the stories and entertainment of cultures everywhere, that’s it for WOVEMBER WORDS until 2015! All the photos used here have been contributed by WOVEMBERISTS and celebrate the links between WOOL and CATS.

The riddles are given with links to word definitions in John J Graham’s Shetland Dictionary.

YOURS IN WOOL! Fx

A head laek a hedder clew
A boady laek a buggie o’ oo
A tail laek a rower

(a head like a fluffy/heathery ball of wool
a body like a sheepskin bag of wool
a tail like a rolag)

"To make a matching hat, I’m spinning my cat! Preparing fiber from my little herd of Swedish finewool sheep; blending natural black with some dyed yellowish colours (from apple bark, yellow onion and birch leaves)" – Emma Styhr

“To make a matching hat, I’m spinning my cat! Preparing fiber from my little herd of Swedish finewool sheep; blending natural black with some dyed yellowish colours (from apple bark, yellow onion and birch leaves)” – Emma Styhr

A boady lik a buggy o oo
A head lik a simmond clew,
Four feet an twenty nails
An’ a tail lik a teengs

(a body like a sheepskin bag of wool
a head like a ball of rope,
four feet and twenty nails
and a tail like one side of a set of tongs)

“Lucy ‘catches’ a mouse.” Jacqui says: “the mouse and the bed are felted. The cat, however, is not.” - Jacqui Whitemore

“Lucy ‘catches’ a mouse.” Jacqui says: “the mouse and the bed are felted. The cat, however, is not.” – Jacqui Whitemore

A body like a sock o oo
A head like a waaftie clue
A tail like a rower

(a body like a piece of knitting
a head like a ball of yarn
a tail like a rolag)

‘This is how my cat Ukkie prevents me from working with wool; she looks so happy sleeping on my WIP, I can’t take it away from her, so have to work on something else instead" – Anja Vos.

‘This is how my cat Ukkie prevents me from working with wool; she looks so happy sleeping on my WIP, I can’t take it away from her, so have to work on something else instead” – Anja Vos.

(this one isn’t so specifically woolly but it speaks so perfectly of the regal nature of cats that we felt it must be included).

I’m penniless and poor as Job
Such is my tribe by nature
And yet, I wear a kingly robe
Though an independent creature

"‘Cat heaven. If you ever want to make a cat happy, just leave some fleece or knitting sitting out." – Jeni Reid

“‘Cat heaven. If you ever want to make a cat happy, just leave some fleece or knitting sitting out.” – Jeni Reid

- Laurie Goodlad and Amy Lightfoot, Guddicks, Traditional Riddles from Shetland, published by The Shetland Times Limited, 2013, and available to buy here.

Wovember Words: Leg-waarmers song (1983)

At Shetland Wool Week 2014 Shetland ForWirds put on a wonderful evening of songs and readings in Shetland dialect, designed to introduce and celebrate the richness of the Shetland dialect and to share some of the beautiful terms for WOOL and WOOLWORK used in the past and today in Shetland. Laureen Johnson has very kindly granted me permission to share a couple of verses from her fantastic 1980s song, “Leg-waarmers” which is both a brilliant celebration of WOOL’s abilities to protect one’s köts (ankles) from the bitter elements, and a wondrous eulogy to that fabulous must-have accessory: the legwarmer. The meanings of some specific dialect words are put in brackets after those words.

Sung to the tune of “Roamin in the Gloamin”

Hit’s no aften A’m in fashion, an dat is plain ta see.
Short skirts an naked shooders – is no for folk laek me!
But dis year A’m no blate (shy)
an A’m fairly up ta date
Steppin oot in style wi my leg-waarmers.

I wear dem wi me shoes on, I wear dem wi me buits
Dey fairly stop da icy draughts aroond aboot your köts (ankles)
Hit can rain or hail or snow
I’ve da warmest legs in Voe
When A’m kitted oot wi my leg-waarmers.

Der lovely lightsome colours ta brighten up da scene -
I hae red eens, I hae blue eens, I hae forty shades o green.
I hae eens wi stripes an spots
herring-bonns and polka dots.
I fairly catch da eye wi my leg-waarmers.

- Laureen Johnson, Leg-waarmers song (1983), performed at Shetland Wool Week 2014 and reproduced here with kind permission.

my leg-waarmers which celebrate my favourite beer!

my leg-waarmers which celebrate my favourite beer!

TURBOTHANKS X

Dear WOVEMBERISTS, fellow comrades in WOOL, lovers of the fleece, BUDDIES IN BAAS; -

This is a massive heartfelt thanks to everyone who makes WOVEMBER happen every year. Thank you for tweeting and re-tweeting our articles, for sharing our stories on Facebook, for signing our petition, for mentioning this site on Ravelry and for generally SPREADING THE WOOLLY WORD.

TURBOTHANKS for your patience and for understanding that WOVEMBER is run on goodwill, deep cups of coffee, LOVE, and a shoestring.

We do it because we love these guys.

"hens selecting best wool for an easter bonnet" - Lee Hawkins

“hens selecting best wool for an easter bonnet” – Lee Hawkins

WOVEMBER happens each year because WOOL is amazing and stuff which isn’t made of WOOL should not be allowed to market itself on the long-standing, beauteous and well-deserved reputation of this marvelous textile, born of land and labour.

"This Carniola Stone Sheep merges totally with its winterly background." - Beate Herold

“This Carniola Stone Sheep merges totally with its winterly background.” – Beate Herold

WOOL has ancient ties to places, industry, people, culture, agriculture, craft, textiles and fashion. Every year we try to find postings which emphasise and celebrate these aspects of WOOL. Thank you to all the shepherds, crofters, wool-sorters, shearers, mill-owners, fashion and knitwear designers, makers, creators, dyers, knitters and comrades who have made time this year to share your stories with the world!

TURBOTHANKS to Jeni Reid for your amazing daily photos throughout the month – these were a huge enrichment to the regular postings schedule.

The Wool Man - Oliver Henry's amazing wool-sorting hands, photographed by Jeni Reid

The Wool Man – Oliver Henry’s amazing wool-sorting hands, photographed by Jeni Reid

TURBOTHANKS also to all the shepherds and crofters who created content for WOVEMBER this year and who took time away from your flocks to write gorgeous inspiring pieces about the work you are doing; I loved that this year in particular there was a thread of ideas in your pieces about the economic viability of WOOL for the farmer today – from Sally’s pieces on the Soft Fell sheep (a dual purpose meat/wool animal) to Kate’s discussion of sheep sponsorship to Jane’s amazing use of local Texel fleeces – our shepherding posts this year suggested multiple ways of saving FLEECE from the dreaded bonfire and earning necessary cash for WOOL GROWERS and SHEPHERDS everywhere.

Texel sheep on Orkney

Texel sheep on Orkney

Thanks also to all our amazing contributors who wrote about the wondrous ways that WOOL can be used creatively, in everything from designing knitwear to knitting socks. It was especially heartening this year to read of how WOOL with its history, character and provenance is in itself increasingly inspiring contemporary designers and makers like Karie Westermann, Aurélie Colas and the wonderful artisans working with the special North Ronaldsay fleeces whom we read about in this post.

" I am knitting with something that feels alive in my hands; I am reminded that the strand of yarn running through my fingers was once part of a living creature. I may be sheltered from the wind and rain outside, but my knitting is not far removed from an animal grazing on hills. I am part of tradition and I am rooted in a landscape." - Karie Westermann

” I am knitting with something that feels alive in my hands; I am reminded that the strand of yarn running through my fingers was once part of a living creature. I may be sheltered from the wind and rain outside, but my knitting is not far removed from an animal grazing on hills. I am part of tradition and I am rooted in a landscape.” – Karie Westermann

"These cosy mittens link both sheep, as they face each other and proudly stand on the back of the hand" - Aurélie Colas

“These cosy mittens link both sheep, as they face each other and proudly stand on the back of the hand” – Aurélie Colas

"Each hank of North Ronaldsay yarn I knit brings me the essence of the North Ronaldsay shore and its unique native sheep" - Jane Cooper

“Each hank of North Ronaldsay yarn I knit brings me the essence of the North Ronaldsay shore and its unique native sheep” – Jane Cooper

It is always interesting to hear from our comrades in the working wool industry, and especially from Jamieson & Smith and Blacker Yarns/The Natural Fibre Company, who annually support WOVEMBER by donating prizes. Thanks this year to Jamieson & Smith for a wonderful post about natural fleece shades and the annual wool harvest on Shetland, and to Sue Blacker for a hugely informative series about yarn design at the Natural Fibre Company. Thanks also to Aurélie Colas for donating a copy of her pattern collection Castle Fraser throughout the year and her Sheepy Draughts pattern to our prize pot!

"Shetland crofter clipping his sheep" Photo by Oliver Henry

“Shetland crofter clipping his sheep” Photo by Oliver Henry

"Yarn Design" Sue Blacker

“Yarn Design” Sue Blacker

Yarn Design by Sue Blacker, parts 1, 2, 3 and 4.

"Sheepy Draughts" by Aurélie Colas

“Sheepy Draughts” by Aurélie Colas

ALSO: I want to personally say a HUGE thanks to Louise. With myself and Kate extremely busy with our respective self-published books, and Tom busy with his own amazing and important work with wool, I really needed an extra TEAM-MATE to make WOVEMBER feasible this year. I initially asked Louise if she could curate a week’s worth of posts, but she quickly outgrew this role, stepping into the breach as a full-time WOOL COMRADE. Her work has made this year extra specially wondrous, and I have learned tons from the fantastic pieces she’s written and researched. I have also been extremely grateful for all the time she has spent helping me with the gallery, the Wovember Words and the rest. TURBOTHANKS, LOUISE!

Magnificent woolly mucker, LOUISE SCOLLAY!

Magnificent woolly mucker, LOUISE SCOLLAY!

Finally, thanks to YOU for wearing wool, working with wool, loving wool, sharing wool, joining in our celebration and our campaign and for being part of what makes this wondrous adventure feel so rewarding and so necessary.

There are a few more things to say and do before we wrap everything up for good this year, but WOVEMBER remains, as ever, YOURS IN WOOL. XXX FELIX XXX

Wovember Words: Wordsworth on WOOL

Today’s WOVEMBER WORDS come from Wordsworth who gives a wondrous picture of the place of WOOL in Lakeland life in the early nineteenth century. Originally published anonymously in 1810 as an introduction to Wilkinson’s “Select Views in Cumberland, Westmoreland and Lancashire”, Wordsworth’s “Guide to the Lakes” was later revised and edited by the author and published in 1835. I think it is lovely to connect this text with the fantastic contemporary culture of WOOL practiced by The Wool Clip and its wondrous members, whom we have mentioned here before.

The storms and moisture of the climate induced them to sprinkle their upland property with outhouses of native stone, as places of shelter for their sheep, where, in tempestuous weather, food was distributed to them. Every family spun from its own flock the wool with which it was clothed; a weaver was here and there found among them; and the rest of their wants were supplied by the produce of the yarn, which they carded and spun in their own houses, and carried to market, either under their arms, or more frequently on pack-horses, a small train taking their way weekly down the valley or over the mountains to the most commodious town. They had, as I have said, in their rural chapel, and of course their minister, in clothing or in manner of life, in no respect different from themselves, except on the Sabbath-day; this was the sole distinguished individual among them; everything else, person and possession, exhibited a perfect equality, a community of shepherds and agriculturists, proprietors, for the most part, of the lands which they occupied and cultivated.

- William Wordsworth, A Guide Through the district of The Lakes in the North of England, published in 1835 and reproduced and republished with an introduction by W. M. Merchant by Rupert Hart-Davis, Soho Square London, 1951

The Wool Clip - a modern day community of shepherds and agriculturists, proprietors, for the most part, of the lands which they occupy and cultivate

The Wool Clip – a modern day community of shepherds and agriculturists, proprietors, for the most part, of the lands which they occupy and cultivate

WAL updated!

A flurry of emails later, we have an updated WAL gallery of projects to share – look at all the glorious creativity with wool that has happened this WOVEMBER… hurrah! We will announce the winners soon.

HO-HO hat knitted from Jamieson’s Spindrift and fulled; Retro Norwegian Hat by Tanis Gray is made from vintage 100% wool; Hat and mittens made from vintage 100% wool.

HO HO HO hat worked in 100% WOOL Shetland yarn, then fulled

HO HO HO hat worked in 100% WOOL Shetland yarn, then fulled

Three hats and one pair of mittens – Diane Gerlach (who says “I guess it must be all these hats that have prevented me from finishing my Wovember jumper!”)

I started keeping Leicester longwool sheep last year due to them being such a rare UK breed.

They are such fantastic sheep, each brimming with their own personality.

I had my first lambs this year

And my first shearing – This was done by a young man in his final year of agricultural college – a fantastic chap George who really knows his stuff and coped very well with my girls (who are all rather large)!

I’m determined to make full use of my lovely longwool fleeces but am pretty novice at all things creative, so this is my first project:

Dyeing the fleece
And then weaving it onto a pegloom to make a rug.

Photos of sheep and progress enclosed.

Hope to move on to trying felting and spinning when the rug is finished.

- peg loom rug by Lee Hawkins

My Wovember WAL project was my Wovember Icelandic. The photo is attached, and details are on my Ravelry project page http://www.ravelry.com/projects/Lindragon/iunn
Made with 100% Icelandic wool.

I felt that I learned a great deal with this project, and thoroughly enjoyed it.

yoke cardigan worked in Icelandic Lopi

yoke cardigan worked in Icelandic Lopi

- cardigan by Linda Drage

Wool cowl with Noro yarn

- cowl by Leslie Bryan

This year for Wovember 2014, I used up some Foula Wool from a Kate Davies “Tea Jenny” kit to make myself a hat. This was my first try at a corrugated ribbing, and I found that I loved doing it.

hat made from foula wool

hat made from foula wool

This tunic is made with artisan spun New Zealand wool that I found on eBay a few years ago. The pattern for this tee is my own. I can’t seem to stop knitting the feather & fans pattern. It goes well with any kind of yarn from lace to the bulkiest. The tunic took me just 4 days to knit up. I still need to wash and block it, but I’m happy with how it turned out.

tunic made from new zealand wool

tunic made from new zealand wool

- hat and tunic by Kathy Burnett

I designed this Loon hat last year using Quince and Co American wool, and am looking forward to knitting several more.

hat worked in Quince and Co American wool

hat worked in Quince and Co American wool

hat worked in Quince and Co American wool

hat worked in Quince and Co American wool

This the first half of a pair of mittens that I am making. The yarn in this mitten is from Icelandic sheep wool raised in Denmark. I bought the yarn directly from the farmer at a festival in Roskilde, Denmark in 2013. I also got to meet a few members of the flock! I associate this wool with my memories of an especially wonderful day, and am exciting about wearing my mittens this winter. More information is on my Ravelry Project page (http://www.ravelry.com/projects/ErinJoelle/viking-mittens).

mitten worked in Icelandic sheep wool raised in Denmark

mitten worked in Icelandic sheep wool raised in Denmark

- hat and mitten by Erin Redding

Inside Castle Fraser (Aberdeenshire, Scotland) is a little room, with a woodcarving of a standard-bearer sheep in a recess on the wall. Of French origins, the Fraser family descends from continental settlers, as part of the Norman infiltration in the 12th century. The Scottish standard-bearer sheep is strangely similar to the emblem of a large city in Normandy, France.

These cosy mittens link both sheep, as they face each other and proudly stand on the back of the hand.
Stranded throughout, with a thin knitted lining, The Woodcarving mittens are worked with Shetland wool, as a nod to the French standard-bearer sheep, symbol of the guild of drapers and woollen cloth traders.

The Woodcarving, by Aurelie Colas (pattern to be published early December 2014 – using Jamieson’s Shetland Spindrift in 12 colours for the outer shell, and Jamieson’s Ultra for the lining)

mittens worked in Jamieson's of Shetland wool

mittens worked in Jamieson’s of Shetland wool

- mittens by Aurelie Colas

I have nearly finished making a rug from a Blue Texel fleece and I shall call it Dappled Thing.

This has been a huge pleasure of headlong spinning and never mind the lumps, yarn fatter or thinner as the mood of the evening took me; crocheted to go with the flow of a skein, it holds my glory in a landscape plotted and pieced – for anyone else, it’s a bathmat.

I will be completing it tonight and blogging about the process this Friday on wooltribulations.blogspot.com

bathmat worked in handspun and crocheted wool

bathmat worked in handspun and crocheted wool

- bathmat by Fran Rushworth

Hand spun Shetland wool knit in to squares to make blanket. Using natural colours of Shetland wool.
Great experience as only started spinning in February.

- blanket by Liz Fraser

My Wovember Sweater

Another wondrous post from Jane Cooper telling the story from sheep to sweater of one very special garment!

Photo 1

I’ve spent the entire month wearing just one sweater. It’s been a fun way to celebrate Wovember but also a way to fully test the properties of a new knitting yarn. I’d like to introduce Orkney Wool Pure Texel Yarn.

Orkney texel wool

Orkney Wool Pure Texel Yarn

It’s a yarn that I designed and had spun and dyed for me by Natural Fibre Company. The whole experience has been fascinating and, as Wovember comes to an end, I’m delighted to report that the yarn has exceeded my hopes and expectations.

Soon after moving to Orkney I noticed that the fleece up here seemed to be thicker, with finer fibres, compared to the same breeds I was familiar with from England. Possibly the result of all the rain and strong winds the sheep have to endure outside. Orkney has the climate and conditions to grow grass and so top quality grass-fed beef and lamb. While we cherish our unique North Ronaldsay sheep, the farming industry uses commercial pure and cross breeds.

When I started knitting over 50 years ago it was easy to buy British wool yarn that would last for decades. This is my husband’s sweater, knitted by his aunt in the early 1970’s and still worn regularly.

Good strong hardy wool,  lasts for years and years and keeps the weather out

Good strong hardy wool, lasts for years and years and keeps the wearer warm

To create a yarn with similar qualities I selected the finest shearling fleeces from the pure breed Texel flocks at Veltigar Farm as they were being shorn and then started sampling. The wonderful mini-mill on North Ronaldsay is working to full capacity with North Ronaldsay wool and a little extra native breed wool, so I couldn’t go there. Instead I chose Natural Fibre Company to spin the yarn because I was familiar with the high quality of their yarns and their expertise with wool from different breeds of sheep.

Texel sheep on Orkney

Texel sheep on Orkney

I then hand-spun and sent down the woollen and worsted-spun samples, plus knitted samples, to test how different yarns worked for textured knitting and then the discussions started. Texel is a very versatile wool with a lot of natural loft so we had a number of options. In the end we settled on a woollen spun yarn with an extra combing in the preparation to increase the ‘soft’ feel of the final yarn. Every extra process adds to the cost of producing the yarn, but I think we got the balance about right. I really enjoyed the experience and challenge of working with the staff at NFC to design this yarn.

My objective was to create a knitting yarn that would be soft enough for any purpose, be durable, give good definition to texture and cables, create a firm fabric that retained elasticity, be resistant to pilling and be enjoyable to knit. If I’m spending tens of hours, or more, knitting a sweater I want to enjoy the knitting process and to still have the sweater looking good after many years of wear.

I also wanted the yarn to be in solid colours but with a ‘natural’ look about the yarn. A black Texel sheep in the flock provided the dark fleece that, when blended with the white fleeces, gives that special ‘wool’ look to the yarn. The colours were inspired by Orkney itself.

Colours from the Orkney landscape

Colours from the Orkney landscape

Yes, I did very much enjoy knitting the sweater. Natural Fibre Company certainly delivered a yarn that was easy to handle and didn’t have any issues with splitting or other nasties. I chose a design that had cables to test stitch definition and a neckline that would test the firmness and elasticity of the yarn as it was taken on and off – I don’t mollycoddle my sweaters as I pull them off at the end of a hard day working on the farm! If this yarn didn’t retain it’s elasticity and durability the sweater would be falling off my shoulders by the end of the month.

putting the wool through its road test!

putting the wool through its road test!

I wore a coat over the sweater for dirtier jobs on the farm, although I did manage this week to cover one cuff with raddle while applying it to Fraser the Gotland ram. The raddle transfers from the ram’s chest to the ewe’s rear end so you can see which ewes have been tupped. Fortunately I discovered that Eucalan will remove raddle. I took the opportunity to wash the sweater for the first time – another triumph!

washed and drying

washed and drying

Before this I’d just been sponging off obvious dirt and marks and hanging up the sweater outside for an hour or so if I’d been working up a sweat while wearing it. Wool has such amazing qualities that this is all that is needed on a regular basis, even when one sweater is being worn continuously.

After washing the sweater I did remove the bits and pills, photographing what I removed and what the sweater looked like with them on.

woolly pills removed from sweater

woolly pills removed from sweater

light pilling on the sweater

light pilling on the sweater

Considering how many hours I’ve been wearing this sweater for some pretty hard work as well as more relaxed times around the house, the pilling was much less than I’d dared to hope. This bodes well for the sweater looking good 20 years down the line since the yarn is obviously extremely durable.

WOOL knitted and in the ball

WOOL knitted and in the ball

My friends and neighbours have been very polite this month and not commented too much on the lack of variety in my choice of clothes. My knitting friends have been very understanding and interested about the experiment. I’m pleased the design of the sweater meant I could dress it up as well as dress it down. When in a warm room I just removed all the layers beneath the sweater and enjoyed the natural temperature regulation of wool and the fact that this yarn really was soft enough to have nothing on underneath it.

What started as a project to try and increase the price Orkney farmers could get for their best quality fleeces (the final cost of the yarn includes the farmer getting more than BWMB could have paid) has resulted in a yarn that I absolutely love. This year there is only a small amount. If it sells well then I hope to buy larger quantities of fleece next year and see if I can get any farmers interested in producing their own yarn from their fleeces, since that will give them the highest return for their fleece.

It has also been a very special way to enjoy Wovember and I’m still enjoying wearing the sweater. It won’t be consigned to the back of the wardrobe on 1 December!

What a fantastic story of wool grown on a farm and then road-tested on a farm; I love that this sweater has kept you warm during your own work of growing wool and your practical description of testing the new yarn you have made is really interesting. Hurrah for good strong wool!

Wovember Words: WOOL and electricity

Sheep and WOOL really do get into everything and, if you have purchased a copy of the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook you will already know that “everything” even includes a 1930s book about electricity entitled “The Wonders of Electricity”.

Published in the 1930s, this book provides fascinating glimpses into the domestic interior of the 1930s and wool and steel knitting needles are mentioned throughout as commonplace materials with which to explore insulation and conduction, respectively. However in addition to this, the very discovery of magnetism is credited to a shepherd and his iron crook in the book’s introduction! Magnetism is described in “The Wonders of Electricity” as one of the fundamental principles of the theory of electricity. Though it is impossible to prove the veracity of the story and though the author himself doubts its accuracy, I love that this story from “The Wonders of Electricity” connects the currents that we now use on our smartphones to share pictures of wool on instagram with the shepherds of the ancient past.

Like I said, sheep and WOOL really do get into everything!

The wonders of electricity, published in 1935, pictured with iron filings + magnets experiment

The wonders of electricity, published in 1930s, pictured with iron filings + magnets experiment

A Queer Story. There are many stories – all probably untrue – to account for the discovery of “magnetite”. One is that a shepherd, while feeding his flocks on Mount Ida, near the ancient city of Troy in Asia Minor, sought shelter from the heat of the sun in the shade of an overhanging rock. As he approached the shelter, his iron-headed crook was drawn from his hand, and clung to the rock above him. We know that the black iron oxide is found in the country to the south, towards Magnesia ; and it is from this fact that the name “magnetite” was given to the strange stone. From this word, again, we get out word “magnet”.

- A.T. McDougall. BA., B.Sc., The Wonders of Electricity, published by Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons Ltd., London, 1935

100% WOOL wristwarmers, inspired by "The Wonders of Electricity" and perfect for experiments with iron filings + magnets

100% WOOL wristwarmers, inspired by “The Wonders of Electricity” and perfect for experiments with iron filings + magnets

100% WOOL wristwarmers, inspired by "The Wonders of Electricity" and perfect for experiments with iron filings + magnets

100% WOOL wristwarmers, inspired by “The Wonders of Electricity” and perfect for experiments with iron filings + magnets

100% Shetland Wool “Wonders of Electricity Mitts” knitted by Liz Ashdowne for the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook
Photos from the KNITSONIK Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook and taken by turbo talented Fergus Ford

The Sheep On The Shore and The North Ronaldsay Spinning Mill

This evening we have a gem of a post from Jane Cooper, who will be known to many of you through her amazing work on the Woolsack project and also for the work she does on the Blacker and Beyond and Fleece & Fibre Sourcebook group on Ravelry which celebrates a diverse range of different sheep breeds and their wool. This evening Jane writes of the wondrous North Ronaldsay sheep particular to Orkney, where Jane now lives with her growing flock of Boreray sheep.

‘The essence of Orkney’s magic is silence, loneliness
and a deep marvellous rhythms of sea and land, darkness and light.’

- George Mackay Brown

North Ronaldsay sheep eating seaweed

North Ronaldsay sheep eating seaweed

The northernmost island in Orkney is a very special place for sheep and wool enthusiasts. The seaweed-eating sheep of North Ronaldsay are unique in their lifestyle and the way they are farmed.

Beautiful Fleece of the North Ronaldsay sheep

Beautiful Fleece of the North Ronaldsay sheep

I have spent many happy days on this island, but on my last visit there a few weeks ago I spent the day with Jane Donnelly who runs the North Ronaldsay Mill.

Jane Donnelly at the Mill

Jane Donnelly at the Mill

First a very brief explanation about North Ronaldsay sheep for those new to this breed. It is a member of the North Atlantic Short-tailed family so is a hardy, dual coated sheep, small in size, and some of the ewes have horns. Virtually all the males have magnificent curling horns. Their fleece comes in a wonderful array of colours including black, white, grey and shades of brown and ginger. Like Shetland sheep, some have distinct facial markings.

It is an ancient breed that has survived in some part due to the stone dyke (drystone wall) that runs for 13 miles around the island and separates the shore from the fields. In the 1830’s, when the large population on the island needed the good fields for cattle, the dyke was built and the sheep excluded from the fields. A diet of grass supplemented with seaweed became a mainly seaweed diet and the sheep adapted to survive. The low levels of copper in the seaweed meant their metabolism became efficient at extracting the copper, to the degree that North Ronaldsay sheep outside the island need special care to prevent copper poisoning. The island ewes spend the summer in fields with their lambs to maximise their milk supply but any longer off the beach would cause copper problems for them.
When other native sheep breeds were improved by crossing with larger breeds, the North Ronaldsays remained pure since only they could survive and thrive in these conditions.

North Ronaldsay sheep enjoying seaweed

North Ronaldsay sheep enjoying seaweed

The sheep live in groups called clowgangs, each with their own area of shoreline. Their periods of eating and ruminating are governed by the tides. They are highly intelligent and can find shelter from the frequent storms.
The sheep are farmed collectively, governed by the Sheep Court. Being semi-feral, they have to be rounded up or ‘punded’ for shearing and other welfare tasks including selecting and removing sheep for slaughter. The sheep take 3 years or more to reach mature size but the resulting mutton is well worth the wait and highly prized.

Clowgang - A herd of cloven-footed animals in motion; a herd of driven cows, or esp. a flock of driven sheep

Clowgang – A herd of cloven-footed animals in motion; a herd of driven cows, or esp. a flock of driven sheep

The wonderful news for spinners, knitters and everyone else who would like to use North Ronaldsay wool is that the North Ronaldsay Trust started a mini-mill on the island in 2003 to buy and process the wool from the sheep. This ensured the best possible price for farmers and enables people throughout the world to enjoy using this unique wool, which is grown on the storm lashed shores of North Ronaldsay, and which can be purchased directly from the mill.
www.northronaldsayyarn.co.uk

North Ronaldsay Yarn

North Ronaldsay Yarn

The mill has been operating in North Ronaldsay, run by Jane Donnelly, for just over 10 years now.

Jane working in the mill

Jane working in the mill

In that time Jane has had to learn how to use the machinery to create the best possible fibre and yarn from the North Ronaldsay fleeces and deal with operating in buildings that were once part of the Lighthouse, so not ideal for their present use. However with perseverance she has overcome the problems and is now highly skilled at producing and spinning beautiful yarns in a variety of weights and utilising the natural colours of the fleeces.

Wool ready for spinning

Wool ready for spinning

One special machine is the dehairer – this allows the coarser fibres to be removed so the yarn is soft enough to be worn next to the skin, while still retaining some of the weather resistant qualities of the fleece that protect the sheep on the shore during winter storms. The hat I wear most when tending to my own sheep during Orkney storms is my North Ronaldsay wool hat.

Dehairing machine

Dehairing machine

Fine soft fibre of North Ronaldsay sheep

Fine soft fibre of North Ronaldsay sheep

Description of the mill processes: http://www.northronaldsayyarn.co.uk/about.asp

Like many small islands the population today is a fraction of what it used to be, and there are more older farmers than younger on North Ronaldsay now. This brings special challenges. Most of the islanders have more than one job just to keep the island and its vital airport running. Jane does currently have a very competent assistant at the mill but the potential work is still more than the mill can handle. One can dream of the mill being enlarged into a purpose-build building, incorporating an exhibition about the sheep of North Ronaldsay, and providing extra employment on the island, enabling more people to live there.

Sorting fleece

Sorting fleece

spinning yarn

spinning yarn

In the meantime, Jane and the islanders work together to preserve this special breed of sheep on the island where it first developed and to spin such beautiful yarn from the natural coloured fleeces.

School Tea Towel celebrating North Ronaldsay sheep and wool

School Tea Towel celebrating North Ronaldsay sheep and wool

A number of skilled artisans produce beautiful goods using the fleece and yarn, which can be purchased from the Lighthouse Shop and other outlets.

North Ronaldsay yarn

North Ronaldsay yarn

Lighthouse shop

Lighthouse shop

Through their wool products the islanders give us all the opportunity to experience a little bit of the magic of this unique island, no matter where in the world we live. I’m sure it’s not just my imagination that each hank of North Ronaldsay yarn I knit brings me the essence of the North Ronaldsay shore and its unique native sheep.

Beautiful knitwear produced from the wool of North Ronaldsay sheep

Beautiful knitwear produced from the wool of North Ronaldsay sheep

More information about the North Ronaldsay sheep:
https://northernlace.wordpress.com/tag/north-ronaldsay-sheep/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?list=UUFLjutlIV_jUZyledbb0Cnw&v=_rLWECD1UMc&feature=player_detailpage#t=982
http://www.sheep-isle.dk/Ronaldsay/native.htm
http://www.caithness.org/history/articles/northronaldsaysheep2/
http://www.orkneyislands.info/northronaldsay.html

We love the links between the sheep and the land, so beautifully celebrated in this piece. All content © Jane Cooper and used with kind permission; stay tuned for more info on this wondrous sheep breed tomorrow afternoon and evening.

Elizabeth

One more beautiful guest post from Sara Dunham reflecting on a special member of her flock.

I buried an old friend yesterday, a Jacob ewe who was at least 16, if not older. Elizabeth. Or as she was called for the last couple of years, Queen Elizabeth. I’m not sure about large flocks, but in my small hand spinner’s flock, there was a definitely leader and it was Elizabeth.

Elizabeth ruled with a stern hoof and didn’t just rule the sheep flock, but the shepherd as well. She let me know when it was time to feed and how much food to put out. I was short on hay one day and I set out about 2/3 of what I usually did and she knew and let me know she knew.

After that I’d periodically test her by setting out either fewer piles or the same number of piles but less hay in each pile. She’d quickly survey the scene, weighing it all out and never failed to notice if the amount was wrong.

I got started in spinning because of another old sheep, my first sheep, Punkin. Near the end of his life I was encouraged to take all that wool that I’d given away each year at shearing and have it spun into yarn so I could knit a sweater as a momento. I found a local spinner and then taught myself to knit. Little did I know how that would change my life.

I thoroughly enjoyed knitting and my husband convinced me to give spinning a try and bought me a wheel. I was hooked. We decided to add a few more sheep and Elizabeth was in that first group. Last year I saved her shearing, spun it myself and knit a sweater.

I wanted to get a picture of the two of us together, dressed alike. Elizabeth had no such desire. First we tried to force some pictures in the little lamb shed she’d moved into once she got too feeble to stay with the main flock. Then I tried sneaking up on her as she sat out in the grass.

A little closer and a little closer and a little closer.

And for a split second we both looked up.

And then she tootled off. This silly series of photographs is the perfect way to remember her. That and a warm, comfy sweater.

Thanks so much Sara for your beautiful posts which reflect such depth of feeling for WOOL and for your flock; we at WOVEMBER love the warmth and depth with which you write about your animals: thanks for all you’ve added to WOVEMBER this year!

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