By Marcella Craven, ODW Tutor Technician
Many of you may have seen the beautiful blankets and shawls sold in the Outdoor Work shop here at Bedales. We currently have large blankets (202cm x 149cm, £200) and medium blankets (142cm x 149cm, £120), as well as two wraps/shawls (£70) and balls of Jacob yarn, double knitting weight, in cream, dark brown and oatmeal (£4 per 50g ball) available to buy. To put in an order, please email email@example.com.
We thought you might like to know a little more about the work and process that goes into producing these unique items. The blankets and shawls are made from Jacob sheep wool, produced from our rare breed flock which numbers approximately 48 breeding ewes and lambs. Jacob sheep fleece is brilliant for weaving purposes as they produce different colours of wool which allow a natural coloured end product which has not been dyed in anyway. The staple length of the wool is also excellent which makes it really popular among spinners.
Every year we hire a professional shearer to shear our flock. Shearing day usually takes place in June and is always popular with our students and our sheep, who enjoy getting a haircut once the weather warms up! It takes us around two years before we have enough wool fibre to make it worthwhile sending it to be processed into yarn.
Once shorn from the sheep, the fleeces are rolled and stored ready for our students to help sort the fleeces. They take away any old, matted or ruined wool from the fleece and separate the fleece into colours, white, brown and mixed colour wool. It’s a great way to learn about the qualities of raw wool, it’s many uses and feel the lanolin on their hands. This year we collected 132kg of white wool, 81kg of brown wool and 33kg of mixed colour wool (once spun this will be grey).
The wool is then rammed into large fibre sacks, which are sent to The Natural Fibre Company based in Cornwall. They scour (wash) the wool and set up their spinning machines so that once spun and oiled the returned product is only the unique wool we have sent to them.
The mill make three products for us, spun yarn to knit with, washed and carded fibre to spin with at school and spun yarn to weave with. Once spun and on a cone, the weaving wool is sent off again. This time it travels to Wales to the Melin Teifi Wool Mill in Dyfed, Ceredigion. Here it is handwoven into the blankets, wraps and scarves which you would recognise from the ODW shop.
The effort, care, process and craftsmanship that goes into making these products ensures that the end result is totally air mile free, British made, and 100% Bedalian.
To celebrate lambing season and to mark the end of term, we are offering you the chance to WIN a medium blanket worth £120! Find out how to enter on Bedales’ Instagram page here.