Farm collaboration

Things have been very busy lately; I’ve just moved house to a completely new area, and now have my own teeny studio at home! It’s so nice to have a dedicated space to contain the fluff!
 
Before the move, amongst all the panic of packing and transport arrangements, I was working on some custom dyeing for Fernhill Farm, who I love working with. They are an eco farm on the Mendips in Somerset and focus on sustainable farming, as well as producing some of the loveliest wool. I bought my first fleece from them earlier in the year, and was hooked!
 
This order was to dye up a mountain of their beautiful white combed tops in ten solid colours they chose, plus a few variegated colour ways I created for them. This was such a great learning experience for me; coming up with specific colour recipes to make repeatable colours, seeing how the fibres take colour differently and can sometimes give unexpected results. The testing stage is always brilliant fun, working out the specific amounts required of each dye colour and keeping notes in my dye-splashed notebook. 

Marina Skua dyed fibre for Fernhill Farm

Variegated dyed fibre for Fernhill Farm

I love how these colours came out! So rich and vibrant.
 
With all the wool dyed up I went down to the farm to drop it off and have a little look around, seeing the farmyard, some of the accommodation on site and the area that’s used for festivals in the summer. I would have loved to take photos, but my camera was left at home packed in a box somewhere.
 
 Of course I had to see the shearing shed and play around with some of the amazing fleeces! I came away with two fleeces; one white Shetland x Teeswater, and one dark grey-brown Shetland/Bluefaced Leicester/Romney.

Shetland x Teeswater fleece from Fernhill Farm

Shetland x Teeswater wool

I’ve been working with Teeswater for a while (as written about in my last blog post), and while I love the lustrous curls, I sometimes wish it were a little softer. This is!  It has the beautiful texture of Shetland, with the lovely curls characteristic of Teeswater. Perfection! Soon I’ll be separating out some locks from this fleece to dye up – I can’t wait! 

Bluefaced Leicester x Shetland/Romney fleece

BFL x Shetland/Romney fleece

I’ve only worked with white sheep fleece so far (though I work with grey and fawn alpaca), and am really excited to see how this fleece will dye, card and spin. I have washed a small section and plan to try spinning straight from the fleece; something I’ve not tried before. It’s all about trying new things and experimenting!
 
It’s been really special to visit the place the wool comes from; it’s so easy to become disconnected from the origins of the materials we use and forget about the sheep that grow the wool, tended by hardworking farmers. I’m trying to maintain and nurture that connection, in my own small way.

Have you ever visited a fibre farm, or seen wool you've used at its source? I'd love to hear about it. 

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