Case study: Ewe Spinning Me a Yarn

Sue Blacker's picture
11 February, 2015 - 13:35 | Sue Blacker

This is a lovely story about a new business just starting, the why's and the how's and how we have worked with them at The Natural Fibre Company - we will occasionally include these in our blog, although you can also find some ... on all sorts of flocks and herds, all across the country and with all sorts of end products ... in our Case Studies.

Ewe Spinning Me a Yarn is the brainchild of Natural Fibre Company customer Liz Wookey, a lady who is not only passionate about the sheep she breeds, but also about the area where she lives.

What made you want to keep sheep?
I started keeping sheep about 11 years ago.  I'd always wanted a farm of my own, but I was very committed to breeding, and competing on my horses, mainly Welsh Cobs, so there was no time.  However as I got older I found my horses seemed to be running ever faster and it was harder to keep up to show off my horses in-hand (!), so I decided that it was time to give up the horses and try something new.  I started by buying a few orphan lambs, and soon I was being offered them for free.  They would start off their life with me in a pen in the garage attached to the house that we then lived in, while sickly ones spent time in the airing cupboard.  If I had a poorly one that needed feeding while I was at work in the morning then it came into the office with me, (my boss was understanding), and the elderly residents that lived in the flats that I managed absolutely loved it, and they'd take turns feeding them.

After a while I took over the use of my father in law’s farm, and bought in a flock of commercial Suffolk X's.  Looking after them at lambing time however proved a test of endurance, as the farm was 17 miles from where I lived, and so I set up camp literally in the lambing shed, sleeping in a tent.  Let me tell you it was very cold, but lambing was a success.   I then decided that if I didn't fulfil my long held dream of moving to Wales , and buying a small farm now, I never would, and so using all my powers of persuasion I convinced my husband to make the move, and we bought Cwmgogerddan, our 62 acre farm.

Do you have any future goals/aspirations for Ewe Spinning Me a Yarn?
The fleece side of the farm, Ewe Spinning Me a Yarn has recently received a farming diversification grant from Carmarthenshire County Council, which has enabled me to purchase several pieces of equipment to process fleece with, and various other equipment to use in my farm based craft workshops which I will be launching in May 2015.  It has also funded my new web site.  I have also been accepted by the Cambrian Mountain Wool Group, as an official producer of wool sourced from the Cambrian Mountains.

I intend to be selling our fleece, and yarns at as many craft/sheep events as possible this year, and should hopefully be at the Bristol Wool Fair, and Llandovery Sheep Festival, among others yet to be decided on.

What is it you like about the breed(s) that you have?
For fleece we keep Gotlands, Shetlands, Cotswold and Welsh Mules.  The Gotlands I absolutely adore as they are just so inquisitive; always pushing through the flock to see what's happening.  They also produce a fantastically soft curly fleece that is very sought after.  The Shetlands we have are a new arrival, and after doing some research we have crossed them back to the Gotland to produce what I believe is known as the British Stein, so we'll see what happens this lambing time.  As the Shetlands are small they are ideal for grazing on our hill, and don't poach the ground too much.

The Cotswold...well we've really fallen for this breed, and intend buying more ewes this year.  Again we haven't bred them pure, but have put the Gotland ram on them, the fleece from last year’s lambs was absolutely fantastic and was soon sold out, with felters especially keen to secure these gorgeous locks.  These Cotswold x Gotland yearlings will then be put to the Blue Faced Leicester ram this Autumn, another adventure!

The Welsh Mules, are commercial, but because of the influence of the BFL, produce some really good fleece which I wash, card, spin, and use in felt projects, or locker hooking/pegloom weaving. They also are suited to our rather hilly ground, and withstand the weather well here.

More information about Ewe Spinning Me a Yarn can be found on Liz’s website http://www.ewespinningmeayarn.co.uk/.  If you would like more information on the breeds she keeps their breeds societies can be found online: Gotland (http://www.gotlandsheep.com/), Shetland (http://www.shetland-sheep.org.uk/), Cotswold (http://www.cotswoldsheepsociety.co.uk/), Welsh Mule (http://www.welshmules.co.uk/) and Blue-Faced Leicester (http://www.blueleicester.co.uk/)

 

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