Sharing ideas and creatives who make sheep related art and crafts.
In this edition, Sharon Smith of Wild Welsh Wool shares her story about how she creates beautiful rugs and seat pads using sheep wool and a peg loom.
MM: Can you tell us a little about yourself Sharon?
SS: I moved to mid Wales, near Welshpool, with my partner Paul in December 2015. We bought an old farmhouse to renovate and 2 acres of land, with ideas of expanding our rare breed chicken breeding and may be a couple of sheep. I had just started spinning and peg loom weaving, so liked the idea of having our own fleeces.
MM: What different breeds of sheep do you have?
SS: Our Boreray sheep arrived in May 2016. Next we had some Black Welsh mountain, Charollais crosses and Hebridean. With not much in the way of fencing and no dog at the time, these sheep were not easy to handle! Now we have Greyface Dartmoor, Hill Radnor, Manx Loaghtan, 1 Black Welsh, a Lincoln Longwool ram, Bluefaced Leicester and 2 Boreray crosses who have amazing fleeces.
The idea was to keep the sheep for their fleeces, but that was not a realistic idea. When breeding there are plenty of male lambs, which don’t sell easily as pets or to fleece flocks. So, some end up with us rearing them for meat, which we sell in boxes locally.
MM: How did your business Wild Welsh Wool come about?
SS: I started Wild Welsh Wool in July 2017 when I decided to try selling at a very small local market. I took a variety of peg loom items, spun wool and tapestry weavings that created a lot of interest and several sales. I was amazed and kept going, taking orders and doing more markets and some local shows. The name reflects the primitive wild sheep, and my style is rustic and wild too.
MM: Have you ever tried using Ouessant wool?
SS: I have seen Ouessant sheep, but not used their fleeces yet, although I am keen to try one!
MM: Can you explain a little about peg loom weaving?
SS: Peg loom weaving is for anyone and any type of fleece. Ideally a medium staple length is the best. Shorter fleeces like the Manx or Castlemilk Moorit are not the easiest to use, but do have a lovely colour.
Weaving on a peg loom is a very simple, easy hobby that produces lovely items and is quite therapeutic.
MM: What sort of items do you make?
SS: I mostly make rugs but other items are; seat pads, bench runners, scarves, cushions and bags.
MM: Can you explain about what equipment is needed for peg loom weaving?
SS: The equipment is a loom, warp thread and fleece. Looms can be made at home or bought, and are not usually expensive. Anyone wanting to start peg loom weaving can find the small amount of equipment on line, quite easily.
My partner Paul makes our looms and we sell them, as it was hard to find reasonably priced looms for the courses that used to be run at our farm.
During the pandemic, we started running the courses online and they’ve proved to be very popular, which is fantastic! The students can come from anywhere in the world, though mostly the UK and are predominantly sheep keepers, although a few are crafters who love to work with wool.
MM: What do you take into consideration regarding the fleeces you use?
SS: It is quite important to try and keep vegetation out of them as much as possible and avoid using marker spray. Hayseeds are difficult to get out of fleeces by hand and you can end up wasting fleece, which is sad, especially if you have beautiful fleece. I find marker spray doesn’t come out, it may fade a bit but hard to get rid of.
MM: Do you use your sheep fleeces for other things too?
SS: Fleece is such a lovely natural sustainable product with so many uses. It would be great to see it used more widely and become fashionable for clothing again.
All my left over fleece that can’t be woven, I use as a mulch in the hedges, around trees and on the veg patch to protect plants from slugs and keep moisture in the ground. The water from washing the fleeces also goes on the veg patch.
MM: So if any of our readers wanted to try peg loom weaving, what would you suggest?
SS: You can look up tutorials online, on youtube – or they are welcome to come on one of my courses. We hope to have our website up and running soon.
On behalf of the Ouessant Times, I’d like to thank Sharon for participating in this interview.
Fancy Having A Go?
If you’ve been inspired to make something with your Ouessant wool, there are many tutorials for peg loom weaving available online. Here are some links to get you started.
Watch: Peg Loom Weaving Video
Read: Peg Loom Weaving and Weaving Sticks by Noreen Crone-Findlay
Author: Michelle Mcillmurray