Thursday, 16 September 2010

Save Our Sheep

Loretta, whose lovely beadwork you may remember, is at the moment engaging in saving endangered British sheep by buying their wool, so I am opening my emails and finding links to hirsute and bold-faced animals, which is much better than when I was doing my job and mostly used to open my emails to court summonses. Now, I have known Loretta for a while and she is pretty much indomitable, but, I do not think even Loretta can save the British Wool Industry single handed. So I am going to share some of the links with you because I believe there are people out there who have not, like me, spent their wool budget up to 2015, but who might, like me, be suckers for an endangered sheep. Also, isn’t it marvellous that you can help save endangered species by a pleasant but entirely discretionary purchase? That’s the best kind of activism. It’s exactly the same as if you could save Orangutans by taking one out for coffee occasionally. And if you are thinking, well, I don’t know what I’d say to an Orangutan for the duration of a cappuccino, well, I’ve been out for coffee with worse. I’m sure we all have.
You lookin' at me, hey hey hey?
OK, so first you can start with the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, which has made a list of endangered sheep for targeted-wool-buying purposes. Now, I have been looking around at rare-sheep-wool websites and I have got to say to you, the wool you are likely to get from rare breed sheep can be fairly hardcore, i.e. it is often sheep-coloured, and sometimes you can get fleeces ‘in the grease’, which sounds terrifying. But readers, we are knitters/ crafters and we are hardcore ourselves: this is the wool for us! (Also, I now have a book on spinning and I am working up to it. However I frankly have doubts about any craft which requires me to engage with something called a Niddy-Noddy).

Teeswater Wools sells wool in lots of different weights, and also dyed and un-dyed, and fleeces. They also sell ram semen, which is useful because I don’t know about you but I find it a devil to track down since they stopped selling it in Waitrose (that’s a joke. But, you see what I mean. Hardcore!).

Blacker Designs also have a fantastic selection (including some reduced ones. Go go go!), and tell you what kind of sheep your wool comes from,

The Wensleydale Longwool Sheep Shop has some rather seductive-looking sheep and you can order their wool by ringing them up. (*** I am editing this to add, please note you don't actually ring the sheep. They are very busy, hanging out, being woolly, contemplating the Void. You ring a person. ***).
Madam, if you will continue to point that camera then I shall be forced to turn to you my Bottom
And I found (by myself!), Garthenor Organic Pure Wool, which also tells you what sheep your wool comes from.

I will mention as well at this point that Rowan are also doing British Breed Wool at the moment, good for them. I haven’t tried it but I will go and stroke it in the shop and report back. I am rather seduced by the idea of buying from one of the above websites, however, where you can look your sheep straight in the eye, as it were. If wool money suddenly becomes available from somewhere I am going to order some and see what it is like (Loretta finds some of it a bit bristly but fine for things you won’t wear next to the skin, and says wool from Shetlands is very soft). Thanks Loretta for the links, I’m looking forward to ordering and my woolly horizons have been thrillingly expanded. Does anyone else have any links?
I envy not those beasties their woolly coats, for I have a Tuft upon my Head
I also have an interview on this blog tomorrow with someone who has sheep and sells their wool, though, and I am rather excited. So you may want to hold off on your British Wool Purchasing just for 24 hours because I think the best kind of wool generally is wool from a sheep named Sharona, and I think many people would agree.


Silver said...

I have far too many fleeces sitting around here, but I keep discovering (pleasantly? unpleasantly?) that some of my favorite types of wool come from rare breeds. Like Cotswold, Jacob and Shetland. Of course, I usually look at the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy page (, as I live in the USA...

And I have been trying to avoid getting obsessed with British sheep breeds, at least until I go through a couple of the fleeces I have already. ;) But if you happen to at some point acquire an excessive amount of wool or have any interest in a wool swap (maybe North American breeds for British breeds?), I'm always game for that. Trying new wool is FUN.

Susie said...

American rare sheep must be saved as well - Save Our Sheep Internationally! I will look at the american live breeds conservancy page and see if your sheep look different to ours ;-).

I would be up for a rare breed woolly swap if I ever get any wool, I'll give you a shout ;-).

Marushka C. said...

I just finished listening to a friend's theory of 2012 which involved not only climate change and a new consciousness, but also that some special people among us will have more strands of DNA than the rest of us ... he kind of lost me there, but I had not been drinking beer & he had, so I'm pretty sure it's not my fault. All that to say, I think that activism on the part of rare sheep breeds is much more a problem I can help solve than the whole DNA strand changing/higher consciousness/while the earth reshapes itself dilemma. Did I mention I've been sitting in the hot sun for 3 hrs? More importantly, you are a terrific writer, Susie -- you made me laugh even while I learned something new. Someday soon I will buy rare wool in your honor.

Susie said...

Aw, thank you Marushka ;-). Yes, I'm pretty sure not understanding the DNA thing is not your fault, either (although, perhaps we just don't have enough DNA strands to appreciate the theory?).

I have thought of a sheepy acronym. POB! (Protecting Ovine Bio-diversity). I know SOS works but, you know, I just feel it had been done before...

Silver said...

I like POB, because you're right, SOS has been done before. I want a POB shirt now!