As the weather warms, our thoughts turn to wool and we arrange for our sheep to be shorn. Wild sheep would shed their winter fleece naturally (and indeed, some primitive domesticated breeds still do), but as we have bred domestic sheep for their wool, most breeds have lost the ability to shed it. Shearing keeps the sheep cool, comfortable, and of course provides us with an excellent natural fibre.

Wool is warm when the weather is cold and cool when the weather is hot, can absorb a lot of water without feeling wet – useful in damp Devon! – and is completely biodegradable. In the UK, we have a sheep breed producing wool for every purpose from carpets to baby clothes and everything in between.

Our Gotland sheep are prized for their soft and luxurious curly fleeces. We have the fleeces spun and woven into beautiful blankets, and tan the sheepskins.

This year, we are offering you the opportunity to have a go yourselves. Jane Deane, local textile designer and tutor, is teaching a three day spinning course (22nd-24th May) using our own Gotland fleeces, sharing a skill that has not changed in the last 700 years, despite the advances in technology. She will also be teaching two natural dyeing (7th June and 10th-12th July) courses, producing beautiful colours that cause no harm to the dyer or the environment as modern synthetic dyes do.

Finally, Jessica Watson Brown will be showing us how to produce our own sheepskins from our Gotlands in July (26th-28th) using the traditional bark tanning method. We can't wait to see how they turn out!