Rural Crafts Workshops - felted fleece rugs

Rural Crafts Workshops

Rural Crafts Workshops – how to make a felted fleece rug

Are you interested in rural crafts workshops? Are you looking for a fun and uplifting day? Would you like to learn a new rural skill or craft that could make you money? Would you like to produce beautiful rugs for your home? Then maybe making a felted fleece rug is for you.

During the summer months we run a number of practical rural skills workshops in the art of making felted fleece rugs. You learn how to transform a scraggy fleece into a work of art.

You will also learn about the various types of wool and why some felt better than others, something to help avoid future pitfalls.

It’s a one day intensive course for two people. Click here to get workshop dates and to sign up now.

Why make a felted fleece rug?

Making sheep-friendly sheepskin is brilliant fun and strangely addictive. However, as with most fun things, there’s a caveat; they can be quite tricky to make.

raw fleece waiting to be transformed into a rug
raw fleece waiting to be transformed into a rug

Personally, I think the trickiness makes them more special. It’s hugely satisfying knowing you can transform a scraggy looking fleece into something beautiful even if your patience and back muscles are tested a little along the way.  The best part? Telling your friends and family that you made that glamourous throw on the sofa that they’ve just been admiring is the best feeling ever.

For me, my “rug making journey” (excuse the cliché), started a few years ago after a chat with a friend from a neighbouring farm.  My friend told me she’d seen these special sheepskin rugs made out of 100% wool.  She thought it might be something I’d be interested in trying seeing as I have sheep and love doing crafty things.  And it goes without saying that as a smallholder, I’m always looking for ways to make our sheep sustainable.

After that conversation the cogwheels in my mind started whirring and I remembered a clip I’d seen on youtube ages ago, about a group of Mongolians making an enormous felted wool carpet.  I’ll never forget this clip, it was so inspiring seeing these people creating such a beautiful rug using only raw fleece, soap and water.

The following day I made my way over to our fleece shed ready to dive in head first, easy-peasy I thought, you just splash some water and soap over the back of a fleece and you end up with a rug.

Oops, if only!

The challenges

Yarr woolly sheep
Yarr and his woolly fleece

I’ll be honest with you, I had loads of mishaps and there were plenty of dodgy experiments during my learning phase.  I do admit a lot of my “rugs” ended up on the compost heap.

To boot, the learning phase seemed to go on and on and on and on … which I later discovered was mostly down to the fact that I was working with Ryeland fleeces which it turns out are not the best to use for wet felting.  Ryeland wool takes a looong time to felt and requires a lot more work.  Ryland sheep are incredibly cute and have beautiful fleeces, but their wool is better used for spinning into yarn to make fine knitwear than for felting into rugs.

Thankfully I didn’t give up on my quest to better my technique and unravel some of the mystery of felting:

  • Working out which types of wool felt well
  • how much water and soap to use
  • how much rolling to do
  • many more whys and wherefores.

I learnt the hard way by using fleeces which don’t felt easily. The experience made me emerge a stronger and wiser (I hope!) woman.

Rural crafts workshops – felted fleece rugs – details

rural crafts workshop - fleece half to becoming a rug
fleece half to becoming a rug

I’m delighted to be able to share my rug making knowledge with you by offering felted fleece rug making workshops. These take place here on our smallholding in Dumfries and Galloway.

The workshops will comprise very small groups, just two participants per session.  This is because I like to be able to give you as much help possible. Also, by keeping the numbers low I can be on hand if your fleece misbehaves or you get stuck along the way.

The workshops take place in a big shed but we can bring our tables outside if the weather’s good and work al fresco.  Felting is hard, physical work and it’s much nicer and less hot and sticky if we can work outside.

This is a practical workshop but you get lots of theory along the way as I talk you through each and every step.

At the end of the workshop you’ll go away with:

  • your very own, beautiful felted fleece rug made by your lovely selves
  • a complete copy of the course (A PDF file).
  • a video showing you how to wash and clean up your rug.  (The cleaning up part is quite time-consuming and we won’t have time to do it in the workshop.)
Rural Crafts Workshops - scotch mule hogs
Scotch Mule Hogs enjoying the spring grass

Each participant will get their own creamy-white, curly woolled “hog” Scotch Mule fleece to work with.  A “hog” fleece is wool from the first clip which is extra special because it’s gorgeous quality. Because it still contains lambs wool it is ultra soft and snuggly.  Scotch Mules are exceptionally pretty sheep with fantastic fleeces which felt lovely and easily.  And don’t forget, you can bring your own fleece if you have sheep yourself and want to make a rug made from your own wool.

You will make a rug the “faster way”, working with the whole fleece.

You will learn how to skirt your fleece and I’ll teach you how to prepare it optimally for felting.

Preparing the fleece correctly is crucial for making a fabulous rug so we’ll take our time over this part. I’ll give you lots of hints and tips along the way. This stage of rug making is nice and relaxing and prepares us perfectly for the next part, the rolling. Rolling is the exact opposite (sorry folks). Rolling is hard work and a bit like going to going to the gym for an upper body workout.  You’ll be working your arm and back muscles to get your rug felted and you’ll also get splashy and soapy along the way which is quite fun.  But do wear your oldest clothes!

And finally – why choose our rural crafts workshops?

Scotch Mule hog felted fleece rug all finished and fabulous!
Scotch Mule hog felted fleece rug all finished and fabulous!

You’ve probably gathered by now that making felted fleece rugs is hard work. Fear not, we have plenty of fun too. Plus of course we stop for tea, coffee and lunch along the way, so there’s plenty of time for chats about sheep and wool.

For more details and to book, please click here.  Feel free to email me if you have any questions about the workshops, more than happy to help.