Its essential to shear sheep every year to keep them healthy. Today the fleece produced has little or no value. It typically costs more to shear the sheep than the fleece is worth. For those heroic people who have taken stewardship of our rare breeds, including the Norfolk Horn, the situation is worse.
I knew from my spinning life that many small holders have nowhere for their fleece to go aside from the odd one to spinners like me.
Most talk of using them for mulch or compost or worse still burying or burning. This led to more research into what happens to wool in the UK. Phone calls with the wool board. The prices paid. Conversations with local sheep farmers, small holders and their shearers.
Shepherds with small flocks are effectively excluded from the UKs main wool market.
The appalling situation that people who keep small flocks of rare breed sheep face when it comes to their fleeces made me more convinced that something needed to be done. Determined to do something to highlight this issue I decided to produce a yarn with a local provenance that would prove that you could produce a remarkable yarn from the Norfolk Horn and create a market for their fleece which paid a fair price.
The 2018 limited edition Norfolk horn yarn was our first. It was produced from the fleece of Elsings Orchard Flock and Gressenhall Farm and Museum of Rural Life. The project took 18 months from fleece to a marketable yarn. Its been hugely rewarding and will continue.
It will be exciting to see each years limited edition yarn. Like a vintage wine – every year will be different as each clip is shaped by the climate, land and mix of flocks that go into it.
All the products fibreworkshop produce are made from fleeces sourced from small producers. Its important to us to know where our fleece comes from and that we can show a direct chain of custody from conception to yarn. And hope that we show not only the beauty and diversity of the wool but also give a value to something that should never be perceived as waste.