Unreweleez ~ Designing Knitwear Especially for You!

UNREWELEEZ is made up of a small group of craft artisans and in one case a renown Breeder of Icelandic Sheep. I have taken part at fibre orientated Shows, as a member of the British Coloured Sheep Breeders Association and am a member of the Valley Arts and Crafts group centred at Lake Vyrnwy, in Powys.

Promoting Coloured Wool

The BCSBA is made up of a mix of people, who all have a deep interest in promoting Coloured Wool and since the Association began in 1985 have worked to prove the value of such fleece and to prevent the culling of any coloured lambs, which appeared due to a recessive gene within the pedigree ‘White ‘ flocks that was the ‘norm in those Times’. It was also the time when individual farmers could not sell own their fleece but wool (as much of it still is today) had to be delivered to the Wool Board. The Board graded and set the price of the fleece and COLOURED wool was thought to be valueless – a reason given was that coloured wool ruined the dyeing process in the Mills.

This sealed the decline of many natural, diverse often Primitive Sheep Breeds in the Britain. In contrast, Hand Spinners were a growing number of craft people in the 1970’s and were frustrated and keen to purchase fleece direct from the farms, valuing the choice of the different characteristics of the individual Sheep Breeds, but they were equally keen to buy the Coloured Wool. From this the plight of declining natural British Breeds became highlighted and not just of Sheep but all under valued ‘old fashion’ breeds of Cattle, Pigs, Chickens, Goats. The ARK Magazine appeared and the Rare Breed Survival Trust was born and support of such groups as the BCSBA slowly reversed the trend and many of the ‘At Risk’ Sheep Breeds now have successful Societies of their own.

The Art of Knitting

I began the art of Knitting at the tender age of 3 years and developed into an avid ‘knitter’, so much so my mother was to regret she had shown me how to cast ‘off’ before teaching me how to cast ‘on’…. I was also taught how to dress make but that was how my Mother, classed as an Older, Post War Mother brought up my sister and myself …. My own Family was not such an enthusiastic recipient of home made items .. except Cakes! Luckily ‘help arrived ‘ in the form of two Bearded Collies and as a result of collecting their groomings, to donate to the Beardie Rescue Charity Caravan, fate was sealed and I became a Hand Spinner albeit on a drop spindle! I still get the short straw at Shows being the chief demonstrator of the Drop Spindle; but the Family encouraged me and so a ‘spinning wheel’ swiftly followed. I soon was an enthusiastic member of the Weavers , Spinners and Dyers Guild, joining the growing band of hand spinners – that’s when I found out about the work of the BCSBA and became an unashamed ‘Collector of Fine Fleece’.

Production of HIGH Quality Wool

Unlike the Rare Breeds, the niche of the BCSBA today, is for the production of HIGH Quality Wool. Good quality fleece needs high standards in husbandry, caring for the welfare of the animals and is less about the ‘Purity’ of breed. Colour is a very important issue and members have been happily cross breeding as part of these aims (some for over 30+ years) ….. though many members do have Pure breed stock.

Education also is one of the aims of the BCSBA and one way this is achieved is by going to Shows. That’s when I started making ‘One-Off Items’ as sales commission help pay costs of Stands and to support the Association. Sometimes it would be knitted hand spun Accessories or simply hand spun Kits. The Family stayed free from ‘Mum’s’ homemades; and I was enjoying designing a variety of Hats, Scarves – on to Shawls and what I called my Christening Bootee collection (yep, colour is a recessive gene so I have plenty of white fleece from my friends).

I was also very lucky to have had excellent tuition from two of the very best teachers of spinning. First was with RUTH GOUGH of Wingham Wool Works and second was with MABEL ROSS. who’s books are still available from Ruth! Infact, I owe it to Ruth as she encouraged me and made it possible that I was a pupil for two whole days on the very last spinning course ran by Mabel. Both have been an inspiration to my thinking about spinning and the results of their teaching has taken me beyond the basics of my craft.

Dyeing COLOURED fleece has amazing results

Plus, I do spin other fibres! With life being full of colour …. so is it part of my spinning and knitting; and although the ‘C’ of BCSBA if for the natural coloured sheep, I was involved in Dyeing experiments to prove once and for ALL that dyeing COLOURED fleece has amazing results!

As an Unrewelee, of course, I had to prove how Valuable coloured fleece was! How the natural tones and tints of a single fleece produces an array of colour within the dyed fibre, avoiding the flatness chemical dyes can have. I even used hanks of yarn spun from different coloured fleece all in one dye pot, each hank interacted with the dye and each became a shade apart from the others … and of course each hank was full of tones and tints! Coloured wool can actually enhance the experience of dyeing – has definite Value and a new market to sell into – something Indie Dyers could take further perhaps than my tinkering ……

Using Organic Fleece

I have been taken down further avenues myself by using ORGANIC fleece and that brought me into contact with a London Designer, who has become a special friend. He gives me challenges to create some ideas and as a one off scarf I made a Christmas ‘twirl’ scarf for him, that he only went on and sold to Karl Lagerfield – and from there we all know twirl scarves appeared everywhere!
I made him a 60’s style scarf he used and lost on a 1960’s film shoot and now he has me full circle as I am back among the Dog … Poodle …. charity fur spinning. Marko is doing all he can to support the Charity training Cancer Detection Dogs!

The link is on-line montagumatysik.com

And it is Marko’s influence that has lead to Peter at DoodleIT needing to eat his daily Weetabix as Marko gave me the push to ask Peter to set up the Unreweleez on-line! A new Adventure of 2019!