Loopy Ewes at Great Cotmarsh Farm
I bought my first sheep in 2011 determined to add value to their wool. Our wool industry struggles with the competition from cheap, synthetic fibres and I’d heard so many depressing stories of farmers burning or burying worthless fleeces. I was convinced that marrying the right wool to the right end product, whilst giving customers provenance, traceability and beautiful design could perhaps be a solution.
I don’t come from a farming family, it is a passion I grew into, but I rarely feel more comfortable in my own skin than when I’m in the field with my flock. My flock of rare breed, British sheep graze on an estate in the Cotswolds. As well as the sheep, my husband and I run a herd of native breed cattle. We farm with a regenerative philosophy, which means we don’t just look after the environment, but we proactively try to encourage wildlife habitats and improve soil health.
After shearing, I take my flock’s fleeces to the Natural Fibre Company in Cornwall, where it goes through the scouring, carding and spinning process to be made into a chunky knitting yarn. It is then ‘hank dyed’ organically, which ensures maximum softness and environmental credentials. Some is left undyed, which I used in my Fibreshed accredited collection. This allows me to beautifully showcase the natural colours their fleeces produce; the multi tonal ‘mocha’ from my Castlemilk Moorit sheep and the fluffy ‘ecru’ from my Portlands.
All of my knitted products are designed, handmade and finished in my Cotswolds studio by my own hands. I use a hand powered knitting machine – no electricity or machine power is involved. My larger block patterns are created using a technique called intarsia which requires patience and careful hand finishing. The wooden tags sewn onto each piece to mark the unique Loopy Ewes provenance, are made for me in Devon on FSC certified wood. No solvents are used in their printing and I hand sew them onto each product using organic cotton thread.
There is nothing like assuring the quality of your raw material, than by growing it yourself. Each stage of the yearly cycle is as important as the next, from delivering beautiful lambs and watching their fleeces grow throughout the season, to shearing time and handing over my wool clip to the mill. When I run the threads of yarn through my hands on the knitting machine, knowing I’ve spent the year caring for the animals that produced it, I feel profoundly connected to my work.