Hooters Hall

Posts Tagged ‘jacob sheep’

Tupping & the Shepherd’s Hut

We’re still finishing off our first set of Hooters hall lambs but it’s already time to start thinking about next years lambing. This weekend we gathered all the sheep in and gave them a quick MOT before letting Jim the ram get started with tupping. He was getting quite excited and seems very happy being back with his ewes.

Here’s some pictures of Jim ram and the ewes enjoying the autumn sunshine

Just in time for the start of the shepherding year we’ve managed to finish building our shepherd’s hut. It’s all been made from reclaimed materials and has it’s very own log burning stove to keep any shepherd’s cosy and warm. We’ve got a bit more decorating to finish off but it makes a great guest bedroom.

The Wool Project : Welsh Woolen Quilt

What makes a quilt Welsh ?

Historically the majority of Welsh quilting seems to have started in the mid 19th century continuing on to around the middle of the 20th century.  In Wales the majority of quilting work was done by professional quilters which lead to the development of a distinctive style and high standard of quilting. Generally if you had money and wanted a quilt you employed a professional quilter to make one for you. These quilts were treasured and kept for best, a mark of your success and worth.Professional quilters traveled the country, living with their customers while making the quilt which was generally completed within two weeks.

There are three main types of Welsh quilts cotton and multi fabric, wholecloth and woolen.

Cotton and multi fabric quilts became popular after roller printed cotton fabrics became more generally available in 1840. A medallion or frame quilt is the style of patchwork most associated with Wales. For Welsh quilters though the patchwork was very much considered second place to the quilting. It is the quilting patterns that identify a quilt as Welsh, the fabrics generally being made in England.

The quilting of Welsh quilts follows a basic format consisting of a square or rectangular central field surrounded by one or more borders. Borders were often outlined by double lines and had corner squares. The quilting borders don’t necessarily follow the seams of the patchwork in multi fabric quilts. A variety of motifs were used with designs developing as the quilting progressed and very much being the personal choice of the quilter. Motifs were often passed down in families and quilters prided themselves on the originality of their quilting.

Wholecloth quilts are made from a single piece of fabric rather than patchwork. They became popular from 1880 when satin cotton in a range of plain colours became the favoured fabric for quilts. Satin cotton has a sheen which shows off quilting very well. The Rural Industries Board, which was est up in 1928, encouraged the production of high quality luxury quilts and supported the Welsh quilters in using their traditional quilting patterns in new ways with wholecloth quilts. The influence of the Rural Industries Board also led to the individual  travelling professional quilter becoming a thing of the past. Quilters were encouraged to work in groups, with up to four women working on one quilt to achieve the goal of rapidly produced, high quality work. This change in production was no doubt beneficial to the industry as a whole but removed the individuality that came with the travelling quilters whose unique personalities were part of their quilting.

The opposite end of the spectrum to the luxury wholecloth quilts of the early – mid 20th century is the very traditional Welsh woolen quilt. Welsh woolen quilts were entirely home grown. The woolen cloth was made in the wool industries of mid and west Wales using wool yarn spun from the fleeces of Welsh sheep. The quilts were filled with wool collected from the hedgerows making them cheap to produce but incredibly warm and practical.

I’m Welsh and I like to quilt my multi cloth patchwork quilts in the Welsh style. I started off choosing motifs based on the fabric or theme of the quilt but overtime seemed to have developed my own personal motifs like those travelling Welsh quilters of old.

Much as I love creating multi cloth patchwork quilts I’ve always been fascinated by the Welsh woolen quilts. Now I have my own flock of Jacob sheep , can spin my fleeces and weave my own fabrics I want to experiment with making a Welsh woolen quilt.

My plan is to use as much of my own hand spun wool yarn as possible together with wool yarn from other rare British sheep breeds. I’m going to weave fabric on my table loom, I’m not sure yet whether to weave individual squares or longer strips of fabric. Smaller squares allows for more variability and experimentation in the fabric design but longer strips would be more practical with fewer seams. I’m still pondering what to choose and might go for a compromise of a bit of each.

I’ve bought a number of coloured warp yarns to experiment with. I’ve decided to stick to using my hand spun yarn for the weft to start with. Here’s a picture of the warp yarns I’ve got to play with.

As you can see there are a variety of colours and thicknesses.

I’m currently still getting all my fleeces spun but I’m starting to plan various weaves and have a pattern book of 600 different weaves to work through and choose from. Once I’ve woven all the woolen fabric I’ll need to sew the squares or strips together then create the quilt sandwich. I’ll be using a commercial wool batting the first time because I think it will be easier to work with and less time consuming than the traditional hedgerow collected wool. Depending on how the weaving goes I’ll either use a cotton fabric backing or more hand woven wool fabric. Weight and ease of quilting will also be considerations when deciding on cotton or wool for the backing but ideally I’d like to use my handwoven woolen fabric.

Having read The Wool Quilt by Jean Dubois I’m planning on quilting my Welsh woolen quilt as I would a cotton patchwork quilt and as the original Welsh quilters did, rather than tying it. Lots of sources advise that wool quilts can only be tied, thickness of the fabric often given as the reason for this but in her book Jean Dubois challenges this view and clearly shows that woolen quilts don’t have to be tied. This article describes what tying a quilt means     http://www.wikihow.com/Hand-Tie-a-Quilt

Once I’ve settled on the design for my fabrics and quilt I’ll post some more details and hopefully it won’t be too long until I have my first Welsh Woolen quilt.

Shearing Our Jacob Sheep

A few months ago we started thinking about how we were going to get our Jacob sheep sheared. The easiest way would of course be to pay a shearer to do it. Although it’s not too expensive shearers do tend to be in demand and sometimes difficult to find. Having read about other smallholders experiences we decided we’d like to try shearing ourselves. Luckily I found a hand shearing course at the Wimpole estate near Cambridge and booked us on it.

The shearing course was on 1st June and we spent the day shearing a variety of rare breed sheep. We weren’t the fastest shearers by the end of the day but a lot more confident about the whole process. We got to keep a fleece so I’ve been spinning the lovely Hebridean fleece that I got to bring home.

A week later it was time to put what we had learnt into practise. We were very lucky to have some help from two friends and to have good weather so we could do all the shearing outside. Although we do have an inside area that we can use, we discovered on the course that having as much light as possible makes the job a lot easier especially with dark coloured fleeces.

We penned all the sheep into the central area between the paddocks and set up a shearing pen next the sheep pen. We also used some exercise mats to shear on, which made it more comfortable when kneeling and moving the sheep around as well as making it easy to clear or wash away any urine or sheep droppings.

Here are the sheep waiting to be sheared all queuing up

We had several styles of shears a dagging shear, traditional type shear from Burgon and ball and a Jakoti shear. It was useful having the different types.I favoured the Jakoti shears which are a bit more scissor like than traditional shears and don’t look as lethal. We also had some spray on plaster in case we nicked the sheep at all.

With four of us we could take it in turns to hold the sheep or shear which made the job a lot easier. Generally we started off dagging the sheep (cutting off the bits with sheep droppings on) then shearing the belly before splitting the fleece up the neck and then shearing each side in turn.

Jim ram and some of the older ewes had very little wool on their bellies which made the job a lot easier. One of the older ewes had very saggy skin though, which caused some problems. All of the sheep got anxious when having their neck sheared as you might expect. Every so often they tend to struggle a bit but then calm down and sometimes completely relax. A tip we learnt from the shearing course was to try and keep their feet off the floor. If they can’t feel any ground under their feet they don’t try and run away.

Here’s our first sheared ewe

And a fleece

A few more sheared sheep including Jim the ram and a lamb that wasn’t sheared but managed to find himself in the wrong pen

We did four on the Saturday and the rest on the Sunday. We did get faster over the weekend so hopefully will be faster still next year. Here’s the flock post shearing back in the paddock

After skirting the fleece ( removing all the mucky bits) we rolled them up , let them cool down then put them into cotton pillowcases ready for washing and processing into lovely hand spun yarn.