Wildcraft sources all of its home grown fibre from our own spinner's flock of sheep. We are building a small mixed flock of a variety of British and continental sheep breeds, with a focus on producing beautiful fleeces for handspinners and knitters.
In 2008 we began building a core flock of pedigree Coloured Ryeland sheep. Ryelands are one of the oldest British breeds of sheep, the majority of which are now white. There is however, a small but growing group of registered coloured Ryelands. Coloured Ryelands generally are born with black or spotted fleeces, which develop a grey/brown tinge as they grow older. The adult sheep are very well covered with wool, which when coupled with their friendly nature, can make them seem rather like teddy bears!
Our coloured Ryeland flock began with Giles, who I bought from Sue Trimmings in Northumberland with the intention of introducing some colour genes into our existing small crossbred flock. Sheep colour genetics in a flock of this small size are hard to determine with any accuracy, but Giles has already produced some coloured lambs from one of our white crossbred ewes. Being a Ryeland, Giles' fleece is a typical downland type. It's a soft to medium grade fibre, that's springy and very crimpy, it should make ideal sock yarns.
In October 2008, I added three pedigree Ryeland ewes, Truffle, Coffee and Chocolate. They were in lamb when I acquired them, and between them they produced five coloured Ryeland lambs in February '09. The Ryelands have a calm and friendly temperament, which makes routine handling, foot trimming etc. almost a pleasure!
The 2010 lambing season produced an excellent crop of Ryeland and crossbred lambs. To help us keep a watchful eye on the ewes during the lambing period, we installed a webcam. In a first for Wildcraft, we also made the webcam viewable from this web site, so visitors could watch the goings-on along with us. 2010 therefore made stars of all our lambs, but especially Small, Murphy and Bandit, who seem to have established early leanings toward careers in show business.
2011 was another good year for the sheep. Lambcam was reinstated and saw the arrival of a total of five Ryeland lambs: three ewes and two rams. Petal, Poppy, Piglet, Poh-Bear and Perry are all thriving and doing well in the spring of 2012.
In January of 2011 I added six Shetland ewes to my flock, with the aim of producing a different range of fleeces for handspinners.
The Shetland fleeces are certainly lovely to work with, but the Shetlands themselves are quite a handful. They're clever little things, much smaller than the Ryelands, and much much faster! They're very friendly to me, their shepherd. But if they get the faintest whiff of vet, shearer or even simply 'new human', their wild nature makes an appearance. Learning to work with these intelligent, yet wayward sheep has been something of a challenge this past year, but I do think that we now have a reasonable compromise. They do what I want, if I insist on it, and I let them do their own thing the rest of the time. Which generally involves climbing into hedges and running circles around the Ryelands.
We've taken a break from lambing in the spring of 2012, but over the remainder of the year, I plan to develop the Ryeland flock, with the possibility of expanding into white Ryelands. I'll also be looking to hire in a Shetland ram to go with the Shetland ewes, and a few of the Ryelands, with a view to producing and even greater variety of fleeces that are ideal for handspinners.
You can read more about our sheep and their exploits in the Wildcraft Blog
NEWS: We do have a number of pedigree coloured Ryeland rams available for sale, both shearlings and older tups. Please contact us for further details.