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Meet the Sheep

 

We are big champions of wool (as you can probably tell) and use it across lots of our product ranges. It is sustainable, versatile and has endless natural properties that makes it perfect for using in our homes.

We particularly love Herdwick wool which comes from Herdwick Sheep. Why? Well, not only is it local, but it has some unique characteristics that make it super functional – it is coarse and wiry, which ensures it can hold itself well, making it perfect to use for our Chimney Sheep®. Like other wool, it is also naturally insulating, malleable, durable, breathable and hygroscopic.

We used to buy our Herdwick wool felt as a finished product from a supplier who would have bought it from a merchant. They would have bought it at auction via the wool marketing board. However, it seemed silly that we were surrounded by sheep farms and not buying directly from the farmers and, with the declining wool price, we wanted to ensure we were supporting them as best we could. So, in 2018, we decided to start our annual ‘Operation Wool’.

 

Follow the Operation Wool journey…

 

Yan: The Herdies come down from the fells

Herdwick Sheep are hardy sheep that are native to the Lake District, close to where we are based, grazing on the fells throughout the year. Herdwicks are rather cute little beasts, with white faces and socks, and fleeces that come in an attractive range of colours, from slate grey to brown to snowy white.They are only brought down a few times a year and one of those occasions is for shearing…

Tyan: Shearing begins!

Every year, the sheep need to be sheared for their welfare. Without shearing, sheep are at risk of overheating (there is a reason we use wool to stay warm!), discomfort by eventually impeding their movement and disease by increasing the risk of parasites.

Tethera: Contact with the farmers

Once the shearing is done, we get in touch with the farmers directly (or vice versa) to put in our orders! Buying the wool from the farmers directly is beneficial for both us and them – we can offer them a better price than what they would get at collection depots and by cutting down the supply chain, it makes it more affordable for us.

Methera: The heavy lifting

Over the summer, we spend a couple of weeks going around various farms in the Lake District and collecting the wool. The process of collecting the wool is, well, it’s hard work and very physically challenging! It involves lugging a lot of huge wool sacks onto a big lorry. In 2020, we collected 20 tonnes. That is the wool from about 20,000 Herdwick Sheep, which is about 25% of the UK Herdwick sheep population and filled four lorries! Safe to say…it’s a lot of wool!

Despite the hard work it is always wonderful to see so many farmers coming together, helping each other out and it’s a great opportunity for us to chat to them about the sheep, the farms and the landscape. It really is rural community spirit at its best!

Pimp: A quick trip to Yorkshire

The wool is then transported over to Yorkshire where it is scoured. This basically means it is cleaned, removing the lanolin (or grease) as well as any dust and dirt which all need to be removed in order to process the wool. This reduces the weight of the wool by about 30%.

We keep some just as scoured Herdwick wool as it can be used for lots of different things. We sell it as nesting wool and use it to fill our door draught excluders. You can of course use it in your garden too, as extra mulch or in your hanging baskets instead of moss.

Sethera: The journey to Austria

Once scoured, the wool is driven in lorries over to Austria. Here, the wool is treated with IONIC PROTECT®. This is a unique ionic protect plasma that slightly alters ionic charge of the wool fibres which permanently prevents the wool from being a nutritional source for wool parasites, including moths!

The wool is then felted to create a material that is sturdy and holds its shape but still flexible enough to fold and manipulate. Once felted, it is rolled up into 12.5m rolls.

Lethera: Back to us!

The felted rolls are loaded up onto pallets and driven back from Austria in lorries to our factory in Maryport where it is stored. This always requires a forklift and a bit of logistics to ensure we can get it all in! This felt sees us through until the next year.

Hovera: The making begins

Once the wool is back at our warehouse, the making begins! The Herdwick felt is cut to make our Chimney Sheep® in all the various sizes we carry, as well as our bespoke Chimney Sheep®. We also cut it to make our Snug Feet insoles and any scraps are used to make our Felt Shilles to ensure we don’t waste any of the precious material!

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