What are felted fleece rugs? Felted fleece rugs are totally “sheep friendly”. No sheep are harmed in the process of making them, hurray! They may look just like sheepskin rugs but if you turn one over, you will see the base of the rug is made entirely of wool, not a hint of hide in sight.
Making each rug is a labour intensive but enjoyable process. It takes me several days to make a rug as everything is done by hand, see how I make them here:
Scotch Mules: This rug is made from a Scotch Mule hog fleece. I was fortunate to get a trailer full of amazing fleeces from a friend of ours, Andy McQuaker who farms in the nearby village of Corsock.
Scotch Mules are great little sheep. There are several types of Mule sheep, but simply put, a Mule is a cross between a “hill ewe” (mum), and a Bluefaced Leciester, lowland ram (dad). The breed of ewe can vary according to location; she could be a Scottish Blackface, (as in this case), a Cheviot, or a Swaledale. The ram will always be a Bluefaced Leicester. Combining a hill-breed, hardy mother with a lowland father brings about the best characteristics of both breeds. Mules are multi-talented sheep with excellent mothering instincts and hardiness inherited from their mums, and the capacity to produce multiple lambs and plenty of milk inherited from their dads.
Mules also have beautiful wool. Scotch Mules traditionally have pale cream or ivory, almost white wool which is long and lustrous. It has a distinct crimp running through it and a curly tip at the end giving these sheep a cute “shaggy perm” look. Depending on the breed of the mother, the texture of Mule wool can vary slightly from one sheep to the next.
Hog wool: A “hog” fleece is something really special. Hogs are “teenage” sheep at just over a year old and they have lovely quality wool. This is for two reasons; firstly, they haven’t had lambs yet so all the stresses that go with pregnancy will not have affected the sheep or their wool. Secondly, hog fleeces are from the first clip so still contain lambs wool plus another six months of additional wool growth. I really love working with hog fleeces, the wool is extra thick and soft and very scrummy!
Fleece Description: The wool is pale cream and “squishy and bouncy”. It is a weighty rug for its size and the wool is densely packed. The locks are curly and at the tip of each lock there’s a special little curl which is the original lamb’s wool. Lambs are born covered in thousands of tiny curls which are still present in a hog fleece. In older sheep these curly lamb tips are no longer there and this is one of the reasons hog fleeces are so special.
Rug measurements: taken from the back: approx. 25 inches in length from top to bottom, and approx. 23 inches across the middle at the widest part. These measurements don’t include the locks which measure between 4 and 5 inches (with longer wool at the “britches”).
Organic ingredients: I’m a huge fan of using homemade and/or organic products for everything around the house, including washing wool. This rug is washed in “Sonett” olive oil laundry liquid for wool and silk. It is then rinsed in spring water with a splash of our homemade apple cider vinegar with a few drops of organic lavender oil (as a moth repellent).
A little disclaimer: Although I soak, wash and rinse each rug I make, (usually I’ll wash a rug several times over depending on how adventurous the sheep has been on her travels through the pastures and what she has collected in her wool over the year), it is not squeaky clean like a commercial sheepskin. It is also likely you’ll find little “meadow reminders” hiding away in the wool fibres. Hopefully not too many though! I do go through each fleece after it’s been washed and dried and pick out any remaining “meadow bits”, but as you can imagine, it would be impossible to remove every single little seed. You might also notice a little wool shedding, this is perfectly normal and is due to the fleece having being washed. Once the fibres settle, shedding shouldn’t be a problem.
Rug care: Finally, if you’re wondering how to wash your rug yourself, please don’t worry, I include an info sheet of “woolly washing tips” with every rug I send out.