In the past, I kept North Country Cheviot sheep. However, I found it increasingly difficult to handle such large and wild sheep – especially in lambing season. I discovered that my Hebridean sheep – initially bought for the purposes of training my sheepdogs – were much easier to manage. As a result, I spent the last 4 years gradually replacing my Cheviots with Hebridean and Shetland sheep. I do still occasionally buy Cheviot lambs, in order to sell them the following year to breeders.
In 2013, I was searching for a new hobby. To cut a long story short, I ended up choosing spinning! I started with a drop spindle before moving to a wheel. It was at this time that I began thinking more about fleece. When the next clipping season came around, I kept about 12 fleeces for myself. However, I only chose them for their colour and soon discovered that their quality was lacking! It wasn’t until I set out to wash, card, and spin them that I realised 12 fleeces was far too much for a novice like me. Most of them are still tucked away in the shed, destined to be used as hanging basket lining!
After starting to spin, I have since learned to knit, crochet, and weave. Recently, I took up felt-making – using wet felting and needle felting methods. I had no idea how many different ways there are to use fleece until I began experimenting. My latest project is creating felted jewellery – combining felt, wire, and semi-precious gemstones.
2015 was the first year in which all of the fleeces I sold were from Hebridean and Shetland sheep. When all was said and done, I received a cheque for less than it had cost to shear the sheep! It was then that I decided to have my fleeces processed commercially into the high-quality, attractive yarn available for purchase today.