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The A-Z of British wool

Kate Chapman and British wool_75024

Wool is simply an incredibly material – used to make everything from cardigans to compost. In celebration of Wool Week, Countryside's Kate Chapman discovers some of the phenomenal innovators working with wool.

Click on the letter to skip to the details:

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y |



A is for acoustic absorbers – Who knew that wool is particularly good at soaking up reverberated sound – especially the human voice – and so is ideal for making acoustic clouds, panels and baffles.

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The Woolly Shepherd, based in Somerset, produces a range of high-performance acoustic solutions from natural fibres, including absorbers to help reduce background noise in buildings and improve speech intelligibility, which are not only sustainable but also imaginative in design and aesthetically rather pleasing. woollyshepherd.co.uk

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B is for bedding – Taking their inspiration from the British countryside, Devon Duvets create eco-friendly duvets, pillows and mattress toppers – all made from British wool.

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The family-run business, owned by husband and wife team Dick and Pauline Beijen, uses luxurious Devon wool encased in beautifully soft, natural 260 thread count cotton to make its pieces which are all individually handcrafted. Wool is temperature-regulating, adjusting to your body temperature to keep you cooler in the warmer months, but nice and snuggly whenever the temperature drops. devonduvets.com

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C is for compost – Farm-made on a traditional hill farm in Penrith, in the Lake District, Dalefoot Composts are 100 per cent natural, and approved for organic growing.

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The company’s wool range – which includes composts suitable for growing seeds, vegetables, salads and a double-strength variety – blend in wool from Herdwick sheep for improved water retention and slow release nitrogen. dalefootcomposts.co.uk

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D is for dog beds – Each dog bed made by The Red Dog Company comes with a 100 per cent British wool topper to help keep man’s best friend warm in winter and cool in summer, and is designed to provide optimum comfort and joint support.

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The company says the extensive use of wool, including tweed from Britain’s most prestigious mills, gives the beds a stylish look; as it’s a natural, sustainable material that has excellent thermal qualities, it wicks away moisture quickly, is self-cleaning and extremely hard-wearing too. thereddogcompany.com

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E is for eco-friendly – Little Beau Sheep founder Sarah Turner turned to wool as an eco-alternative to plastic tumble dryer balls and turned her needle-felting hobby into a sustainable business.

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She makes and sells her own range of handmade dryer balls – lovingly created to look like 15 native sheep breeds – plus other laundry care and body care products, including felted soaps. littlebeausheep.com

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F is for Fernhill Fibre – Set atop the Mendip Hills in Somerset, Fernhill Farm is home to a 6,500-strong Shetland-cross sheep selectively bred for their fine colourful fibre, mature meat qualities, hardiness and ability to promote biodiversity.

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The farm sells fleece and roving (a bundle of fibre) by the kilo, in small bundles and takes bulk orders too, with the options for commission washing, spinning, blending, dyeing and weaving. Farm owners Andy Wear and Jen Hunter also design their own working-style garments suited to outdoor lifestyles. fernhillfibre.co.uk

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G is for gentlemen’s clothing Peter Christian gentleman’s outfitters – owned by the Alderton family of tailors and gentlemen’s outfitters with a lineage dating back to the 19th Century – prides itself on its ethos of treating customers well and making clothing that is as bold as it is distinctive.

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Overlooking the South Downs National Park, the business has a 100 per cent British wool certified range perfect for all seasons, including sweaters, jackets, trousers and hats – all designed from natural fibres to look stylish and make their wearer feel great. peterchristian.co.uk

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H is for homewares – Snuggly woollen throws, lampshades, baby blankets and cushions, all inspired by the landscape of its native Yorkshire, are among the items produced by Adriana Homewares.

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Prized for its softness and durability, the long lustrous fibres from the Bluefaced Leicester are favoured by designer Adriana Gentile who founded her own business in 2016, where all processes – from fleece to finished product – take place in Yorkshire. adrianahomewares.com

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I is for insulation – Thermafleece was the first British sheep’s wool insulation made from the fleece of hardy fell breeds whose wool might otherwise go to waste.

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Wool is an absolutely ideal insulator: it’s breathable, absorbs moisture, is durable and long-lasting and, as a result, is incredibly versatile, non-itchy, easy to install and can be used in the loft, roof, walls and in between floors too. All the wool used in Thermafleece’s products is purchased via the British Wool Marketing Board. If you’re looking to insulate your house – could British wool be your perfect choice? thermafleece.com

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J is for jumpers – And more! Woolaway Knitwear is a well-established family business making a range of beautiful knitwear for men, women and children – including jumpers, cardigans and ponchos – plus hats, scarves and throws.

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Made in England, Woolaway is based in Leicestershire and prides itself on using 100 per cent British wool from sheep roaming the Pennine hills to make its collections, which are supplied to online retailers, high street stores, designers and individual customers. woolawayknitwear.co.uk

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K is for knitting kits – Helen Ingram discovered her passion for wool crafts when her children were small and quickly found it developing into her job.

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She launched Woolly Chic selling knitting and crochet kits to support British sheep farmers and the UK wool industry, and sources much of the wool from her family’s own Dorset and Ryeland flocks in Pembrokeshire, Wales.

They sell yarn, but also kits to make adorable teddies and rabbits, bobble hats, shawls and even woolly bunting. woollychicdesigns.co.uk

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L is for luxury fashion - Fuelled by her passion for style, design and her countryside lifestyle, Clare Johns launched her own luxury fashion label using the wool from her own animals.

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From shearing to sewing, Clare puts her heart into designing and creating luxurious tailored classics, and unique statement pieces, with a vision to support sustainability and local creators. She is devoted to ensuring the entire process of her collections is kept within Wales, where each piece is lovingly handmade. clarejohnslabel.com

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M is for mohair - Stephen and Jenny Whitley have kept Angora goats in the Blackdown Hills, East Devon, since 1986 and use their fine mohair fleeces to make Corrymoor Mohair Socks, scarves and gloves.

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The natural wicking properties and extreme strength of mohair, combined with its silky soft feel makes it the ideal sock material – keeping feet cool in summer and warm in winter, it’s also durable and ideal for those with more sensitive skin. corrymoor.com

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N is for needle-felting - Shepherdess Pauhla Whitaker, a National Trust tenant farmer in Gloucestershire, uses the wool from her own flock to make needle-felted gifts and keepsakes, including sheep ornaments, brooches and cushions. She also takes commissions for felted dog portraits.

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Pauhla, who keeps 370 breeding ewes – including mules, Scots half breeds and Vendeens – launched ‘Sheep in Stitches’ in 2012 after teaching herself to sew and needle-felt. She sells her pieces online. www.etsy.com/shop/SheepInStitches

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O is for original artwork – Produced by artist and shepherdess Sarah Allen. Attending the ram sales at Hawes a few years ago, she was mystified as to why a Swaledale ram could fetch so much, but the lustrous wool on its back, so little.

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So, from the Llyn Peninsula in North Wales, and with a flock of 70 pedigree Swaledales on hand, she set about making pictures, cards, felted animals and furniture – and she’s become a passionate advovate for Swaledale wool! Sarah sells at local shows (when they’re on) with a website in the pipeline.

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P is for packaging – WoolCool are pioneers of recyclable, reusable and compostable 100% wool insulated packaging, which keeps chilled and pharmaceutical products cooler for longer.

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Wool’s complex fibre structure and natural properties mean it can cope with extremes of heat and cold and acts as a natural thermostat, maintaining a stable temperature.

Woolcool uses patented technology on a commercial scale and counts Fortnum & Mason, Abel & Cole and Riverford Organic Farmers among its customers. woolcool.com

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Q is for quirky designs
– Working with the wool from her 120-strong flock of rare breed native sheep, Katie Allen designs and makes a range of limited edition, artisan homewares and lifestyle products that combine contemporary design, quality craftsmanship and true provenance.

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Based in Cirencester, Gloucestershire, Katie’s handcrafted, low carbon textiles include jazzy hot water bottle covers, colourful cushions and vibrant scarves. loopyewes.co.uk

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R is for rugs and carpets
– Family firm Wools of Cumbria, Kendal, was born out a successful yarn spinning project set up to find a good use for Herdwick wool and produces a beautiful range of 100 per cent wool floor coverings.

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Its range is hard-wearing, yet incredibly soft, thanks to the fleeces from the distinctive sheep found on the Cumbrian fells which go into making them – and all the wool used is all grown, sheared, scoured, spun, tufted and backed within 100 miles of the centre of Cumbria. wocc.co.uk

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S is for superb insulator – Durable with thick bristle-like fibres, yet still breathable, the wool of the Herdwick sheep is a superb insulator and ideal for making draught excluders for chimneys.

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Cumbrian ecologist Sally Phillips came up with the simple yet highly efficient Chimney Sheep – a thick layer of felted wool on a handle that plugs the gap above a fireplace – after being called to various properties where bats had come in through the chimney.

As well as helping to reduce energy bills, Chimney Sheep also stops wildlife and debris falling in, prevents heat loss, and stops draughts and wind noise too. chimneysheep.co.uk

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T is for twool – Fed up with jute rotting so quickly in her garden, grower Kim Stead decided to develop an alternative – and came up with a homegrown, eco-friendly British wool twine.

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Made with the long ‘lustre’ wool from rare breed Whiteface Dartmoor sheep, twool’s soft, strong, springy and durable qualities make it ideal for traditional garden string, rope dog leads, bags and even hats – handmade by milliners, Lawrence and Foster. twool.co.uk

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U is for Uist Wool From machair to machine
- Uist Wool, on the island of Grimsay, North Uist, in the Outer Hebrides, makes and sells a range of undyed yarns for knitting and weaving from sheep born and raised on the islands and Highlands of Scotland.

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Inspired by co-operative values, the idea for a new mill and wool centre came from a collective will to find a fresh purpose for local fleece that would reconnect the community with its cultural wool-working heritage. It also aims to deliver training and textile skills development. uistwool.com

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V is for versatility
– Shepherdess Alison O’Neill nurtures her flock of Rough Fell, Swaledale, Herdwick and Hebridean sheep in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales, where she produces a range of natural tweeds from their wool, capturing the spirit of the place she calls home.

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Alison uses this to design and make an exquisitely beautiful range of bags, ladies clothing, wool dog leads and living rugs – all offering provenance and heritage as their hallmarks. shepherdess.co.uk

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W is for Welsh wool
– Shepherdess Sascha De Lisle Butler keeps a flock of rare breed Leicester Longwool sheep for their wool at Wits End Farm, in West Wales. She’s keen to showcase the breed – marked as vulnerable by the RBST – and promote it among smallholders.

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Fleeces are turned into yarn, woven into rugs and felted into artworks, while the farm sells raw fleece, washed fleece and locks of wool for crafters, and other home-crafted woollen items including floor rugs, chair pads, bags and cushions. witsendflock.co.uk

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X is for Exmoor Horn Wool
- OK, so we may have cheated a little with this one, but wool from the Exmoor is proving popular after its breeders’ society launched a new project to add value to their fleeces.

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Using graded fleece from their own flocks, members are creating a stunning range of walking and shooting socks, pullovers and knitting wool in myriad earthy colours and tones to reflect the countryside of west Somerset and north Devon. The fleeces are processed and spun in the UK and the finished items are sold online and at events. exmoorhornwool.co.uk

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Y is for yarn
– Farmer and knitwear designer Susan Crawford breeds her flock of sheep purely for their wool, which she sells to the handknitting industry globally via her website.

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The majority of the post spinning manufacture – including dyeing and skeining – is done on her Lancashire farm. Susan also publishes books and designs using her wool as part of her goal to prove that wool can be profitable. susancrawfordvintage.com

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Z is for – ZZZZ! We all love a good night’s rest and Herdysleep mattresses promise just that with a unique blend of Herdwick wool – sourced from a co-operative of Lake District farmers – cotton and cashmere, layered over more than 7,000 pocket springs to give a luxuriously comfortable night’s sleep.

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Each mattress is manufactured in the north of England by fifth generation, master bed makers, Harrison Spinks, and are fully recyclable or biodegradable as they are free from glue and foam. herdysleep.com

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Did you know? Our Back British Farming wheat pin badges are also made from British wool...

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Last edited: 02 October 2020 at 09:16


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