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 lengthy and 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 from Marwhirn Farm in the village. I’m often at Marwhirn as I help out in their garden, snipping and pruning away to the background tunes of sheep baa-ing and cows moo-ing. You couldn’t meet a nicer farming family and I really love going there. As a result, working with fleeces from Marwhirn is a joy.
Not only that but Scotch Mules are just great little sheep! There are several types of Mule sheep, but simply put, a Mule is a cross between a “hill ewe” and a Bluefaced Leciester (who is a lowland) ram. 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 though will always be a Bluefaced Leicester. Combining a hill bred, hardy mother with a lowland father brings about the best characteristics of both breeds. Mules are great sheep who inherit the excellent mothering instincts and hardiness from the hill ewe, along with the capability of producing multiple lambs and plenty of milk from the lowland ram.
Mules also happen to have beautiful wool. Scotch Mules have pale cream or ivory, almost white wool which is long and lustrous. It has a distinct crimp running through it and a curly a tip at the end giving these sheep a “shaggy” appearance. 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 brilliant quality wool. This is for two reasons; firstly, they haven’t had lambs yet so all the stresses and strains that go with pregnancy will not have affected the sheep or their wool. Secondly, hog fleeces are from the first clip so will still contain lambs wool (ooooh lovely!) plus another six months or so of additional wool growth. In a nutshell, I really love working with hog fleeces, the wool is extra thick and soft, just simply delightful!
Fleece Description: The wool used to make this rug is very pale cream, almost white, and is long and silky with a noticeable sheen to it. This fleece is much more silky than other Scotch Mule fleeces I’ve worked with and has lots of Blue Face Leicester about it (from the tup). It is much more “Blue Faced Leicester” looking than “Scottish Blackface” (ewe) in fact. The locks are curly and each lock is tipped by a small, even curlier curl. These curly curls at the tips are the original lamb’s wool. Lambs are born covered from head to toe in thousands of small curls which are still present in a hog fleece. In older sheep’s fleeces this curly lambs wool will no longer be present and this is what makes hog fleeces so special.
Fleece stain: This fleece includes a very small, very faint pink stain at the bottom, middle part of the rug. It is only visible if you part the wool and only affects two locks. We shepherds and farmers use coloured “marker sprays” for many reasons, for example to tell us how many lambs a ewe is carrying, or whether she has had a particular medicine. On the open moors, shepherds use special flock marks to distinguish their sheep from other flocks. Please note, this mark will not wash out. The reason you don’t see fleece stains on commercial sheepskins is because they use industrial methods to clean the wool, power sprays and chemicals etc. As I’m a “natural gal” I don’t use harsh cleaning techniques or chemicals so if a fleece is stained it will still be visible when I make a rug. You can read more about these stains here:
Rug measurements: Taken from the back: approx. 34 inches in length from top to bottom, and approx. 21 inches across the middle at the widest part. These measurements don’t include the locks which measure 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.