Keeping things natural – what exactly goes into our rugs?
Whether you’re looking for a baby’s play mat and are wondering what chemicals go into our rugs, or you’re just curious, hopefully the info below will be helpful to you.
We don’t have an organic label on our smallholding, the certification is a costly process. But we like to keep things as natural as possible, from not using pesticides or herbicides on our veggies, through to not spraying our sheep.
Spraying sheep is not an option on most farms. Indeed, we used to spray ours when we lived on our smallholding in the south of England. Spraying the flock is really important as it protects from a horrific condition known as “flystrike”. This is caused by the blowfly, (greenbottle) laying its eggs in the sheep’s fleece, usually around the bottom area. The maggots then hatch out and burrow into the sheep’s flesh causing the animal to die within a very short space of time, two or three days usually.
We are extremely lucky that where we live now, in Scotland we don’t seem to have a blowfly problem. Perhaps the Scottish breezes are too nippy for the greenbottle who prefer the shelter of hedgerows and lowland pastures. That said, we are still vigilant and check our sheep frequently but since we’ve lived here we’ve not had to resort to chemicals at all and have had no cases of flystrike. This means we’re happy to say the fleeces from our sheep are about as natural as you can get.
Sometimes I make from rugs from fleeces from a friend’s farm where I can’t guarantee if the sheep have been sprayed or not, but I’ll always state where the fleece has come from in the rug description.
Please also note, the “faux hide” (the woolly back of the rugs) are made from carded wool batts which I order in.
Natural moth repellent
Once the fleeces are sheared, I dry them out, label them up and put them into big cotton laundry bags. I then pop natural moth repellents into each bag. I use cedar wood balls, soaked in a little cedar wood essential oil for good measure.
Hot water, a little soap and lots of elbow grease
When I’m ready to make a rug, I take a fleece (unwashed at this stage), lay it out over the carded batts, then use lots of hot water and a little bit of “Olive Marseille” soap. (The soap helps to open up the fibres). And of course, lots of elbow grease.
Gentle washing agents
After the felting process I soak the rug in warm water to release the lanolin using either “Unicorn Power Scour”, or “Fibre Scour” depending on how much lanolin there is in the fleece. Then I machine wash the rug at 30’ on the ‘wool cycle’ using “Sonnett” laundry liquid which contains organic olive oil and is especially formulated for wool & silk.
Just to keep things natural, there may be tiny bits of vegetable matter (seeds, hay, straw etc) hiding away in the fibres. I do try and pick them out as I go along but there’s always the odd bit that gets through.
I do love making these rugs so plenty of that goes into them too.