Scotsheep – A Royal
Scotsheep takes place every second year in different areas of Scotland and over the 25 years since the first one David and I attended north of Inverness the event has never been so close to home.
Dumfries House is of distinctive architectural importance as it was designed by Robert Adam in the middle of the 18 th century and its unique collection of Chippendale furniture is unrivalled.
It was saved for the nation in 2007 by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, in his capacity as the Great Steward of Scotland. This beautiful house adjoins the 960 acre farm now run as a joint commercial venture by the Dumfries House Trust and Morrisons, one of the UK 's leading supermarkets.
This was to be a Scotsheep with a difference – where wool was to have more prominence than in the past and a whole building (belonging to Prince Charles) earmarked for this opportunity.
The British Wool Marketing Board, the Campaign for Wool and Sheep Shearing were located along with a really good space devoted to Feltmaking and Spinning by members of the Scottish Region of the International Feltmakers Association and friends.
I was invited on to the committee with the special remit of putting together a display and associated demonstrations relating to feltmaking and spinning.
HRH Prince Charles officially opened Scotsheep and afterwards toured the farm, meeting and talking to many people from all aspects of the farming industry. His great interest in Wool, and as instigator and Patron of the Campaign for Wool meant he spent plenty time at the ‘Wool Centre' speaking to representatives of the British Wool Marketing Board before seeing the display and demonstrations of feltmaking and spinning. I was honoured to meet HRH Prince Charles, and talk him through the diversity of processes on show highlighting different uses of wool from different breeds of sheep and in turn introduce him to all the ladies involved.
We demonstrated a variety of ways of using local fleeces for feltmaking and presented both functional and decorative examples of our own work so that sheep breeders could envisage many possibilities of what can be done with wool from their own flock.
There is a definite contrast in the types of wool sheared from different sheep breeds and these natural properties – fineness, natural colour, crinkle, length of staple and lustre etc. can be used to advantage by feltmakers. Wool can be felted in many different ways and for Scotsheep 2012 we were gifted a few whole/part fleeces over and above the Millside wool I provided for experimentation prior to the event (Blue Texel, Lleyn and Zwartbles), so some Moorit Shetland, White and Oatmeal Bluefaced Leicester, Jacob, Polwarth and Cheviot and some very cotted Scotch Mule wool all featured with very different resultant articles, ranging from wearables for warmth and accessories to items more specifically focussed on interior design.
(photo by kind permission of Jenny Mackay)
On the day I worked with wool from the sheep flock at home at Millside including some Lleyn wool and had on display several large felts incorporating naturally coloured wool from the Blue Texels.
I feel I must add a comment to this photo that I look terribly apprehensive but I needn't have worried as HRH Prince Charles was so easy to talk to, he asked very knowledgeable questions and was keen to appreciate the contrasting types of wool (and resultant feltwork) I presented him with.
Ann Ross demonstrated her special way of felting whole fleeces into rugs, a very strenuous process that can utilise cotted fleeces to great effect. With Prince Charles in mind she was working on a Hebridean fleece throughout the day – one of his favourite breeds.
(photo by kind permission of Sally Firth)
There was also great excitement for Ann when Adam Henson arrived in the Wool Centre to see one of his Cotswold fleeces that Ann had used this special technique on.
Before the last Scotsheep at Burnbank two years ago Ann had felted one of our Blue Texel fleeces in this way and it was again much admired. It is like a sheepskin without a skin, instead felted underneath and the sheep that provided that particular fleece is still roaming around growing wool with a potential for action replay the following year!
Ann Williams had on display some stylish hats and other 3D articles from naturally coloured wool. She demonstrated the qualities of seamless felt and made some sculptured pots using Jacob or Zwartbles wool. and the one in this photo utilising some of our Blue Texel wool.
Jenny Mackay loves the contrasting textures of wool especially the lustrous crinkly long staple wools and made a new collection of scarves combining different kinds of Scottish wool especially for the event. The fading quality of tips of wool was worked to great effect with some machine stitchery and she also had on show some of her exquisite cobweb felts.
Liz Gaffney is the Keeper of the Yurt. The weather forecast for the day of Scotsheep (and the day before too when the yurt was set up) was showers interspersed with heavy rain so the pictorial felts were displayed on the inside as opposed to this photo where group felts were created in different parts of Scotland (and as far afield as California by friends) 12 years ago.
Further details on this can be seen on www.scottishstorytellingyurt.co.uk and Liz's involvement in making the felt covers for the Prince's Florilegium is also well documented on www.heartfeltbyliz.com
Marilyn Caddell, Mary Currie and Dorothy Duncan demonstrated with contrasting types and colours of Scottish wool, showing some in its raw state and then outlining the stages and processes involved such as scouring and carding before spinning into yarn and had on display some superb knitted, woven and embroidered articles.
Marilyn is an experienced natural dyer and her speciality is working with dyes extracted from fungi and she brought along a wide variety of skeins and finished articles in a very distinctive colour palette.
(photo by kind permission of Marilyn Caddell)
Mary is an accomplished knitter and had plenty of her projects and beautiful samples on show. She had knitted 2 pairs of mitts with the raw Blue Texel wool provided up front, one particular pair in a lovely lacy pattern.
Dorothy enjoyed spinning some of our Lleyn wool on the day and showed Prince Charles what she had done – as he is currently Patron of the Lleyn Sheep Society it was particularly appropriate that he should handle Lleyn wool on the day.
Most of the wool used on the day by us all linked directly to specific sheep breeds that could be viewed in reality on the breed Society stands in the adjoining buildings.