Where does it come from? For most of the things I consume, it would be hard to give a precise answer. I might be able to work out which country it was made in from the labels, but that doesn’t tell me much! Finding out where the materials came from is often even harder.

I want to carry this question over to what I create, and think about the materials I use. Are those materials sustainable, where have they come from, how are the animals treated? How are the materials processed, what dyes are used?

Wool from a few of the British breeds (Sheepfold has a wide range of British wool)

Merino wool is the wool that is generally used for wet felting artwork. It is soft, fine and felts very quickly, and you can buy it in a wide range of colours and shades. However the Merino sheep breed originated in Spain and is suited to arid climates, such as Australia. The UK climate is definitely not arid! That means that if I buy merino wool, the chances are that it has travelled half way round the world (but often the country of origin is not given, so I can’t be sure!) I want to move towards using materials that are local and that I can trace to a farm, so I am investigating British breeds and how I can use them for felting.

Felt samples for Swaledale and Shetland wool

There are more than 60 British breeds of sheep (according to the British Sheep and Wool book published by the British Wool Marketing Board). Not all of them are suitable for felting, but out of those that are, the variation in the breeds and the wool they produce brings plenty of opportunities and challenges for felting! I am making samples and trying out wool from different breeds to learn how they behave and how I might best use them.

Using Teeswater x Jacob and Hebridean wool for needle felting on my Watendlath piece

More to follow on my exploration of British wool!

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