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.
This rug is made from a Swaledale-Mule fleece. It comes from friends of ours who run a smallholding in Crocketford just outside Dumfries. This hardworking young couple keep a variety of different sheep as well as dogs and horses. They are only too happy for me to use their fleeces which would otherwise go to waste on their compost heap.
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, a Cheviot, or in this case a Swaledale from the Yorkshire Dales. The ram though will always be a Bluefaced Leicester. Combining a hardy mother with a lowland father brings about the best characteristics of both breeds. Mules are truly fabulous 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. I love Mules!
And the cherry on the cake is that Mules have the most amazing wool, it is rich cream in colour, lustrous and very long. Each lock 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. Swaledale Mules have extra -long, “chunky” locks which are “fuzzy soft” to the touch.
This rug is heavy weighing in at almost two kilos. The fleece is a biggie and the wool is densely packed and the locks are extra long which all adds up to a lot of wool.
The measurements are 28 inches from top to bottom, and 24.5 inches across the middle. These measurements don’t include the locks which are an impressive 6 inches in length.
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.
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, (sometimes 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’s likely you’ll still find little “meadow reminders” hiding away in the 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.
Please also note, natural wool rugs can be prone to a little shedding, particularly longer woolled fleeces such as this one. This will calm down in time once the fibres settle.
Last but not least, if you’re wondering how to care for and wash your rug, please don’t worry, I include an info sheet with every rug I send out.