Before I started felting I didn’t think very much about the ethical implications of using wool, assuming that the sheep were not harmed in the process. However, I now know more about this huge global industry and have discovered some incredibly upsetting facts. I have been a vegetarian since the age of 12 and am currently changing to a vegan diet. Animal welfare is so important to me and I feel strongly about ensuring the fibres I use are ethically sourced and cruelty-free. A few years ago I found out about the treatment of merino sheep and the procedure of ‘mulesing’ and committed then to only ever using non-mulesed merino wool in my work. (Pressure has meant that this practice is illegal in the UK and New Zealand but still widespread in Australia.)
I always try to source wool locally, from small farms where I can visit the sheep, and the larger suppliers I use, for example Wingham Wool Work in Yorkshire, supply ethical, non-mulesed Merino.
Sheep on Bodmin Moor
One farm, Newmoor Barn -The Ethical Fibre Company based in the Tamar Valley on the Cornwall-Devon border is committed to producing and selling cruelty-free fibres and has beautiful products and I love its philosophy: ‘Our business is an ethical business that focuses on animal welfare throughout the whole process (from growing to shearing). Our Mohair is vegetarian as our animals will never go to slaughter even when their fibre is no longer financially viable and they will never go into the food chain. The sheep’s fleece we buy is only bought from local small holders and farmers where we can be sure the animals are treated with care and respect. We treat the animals that supply our fibre as we do our customers, with respect. We are trying to encourage artists to consider where their fibre comes from and if it’s natural, to consider the treatment of the animal that supplied it, there are some horrible practices going on out there.’
Fernando, Lola and Luna - Cilla'a sheep
Arapawa Sheep I am so happy to have been sent some wool from my wonderful friend Allyson in New Zealand, whose friend Cilla lives in Waihi Gorge, a beautiful and scenic area by the river and a waterfall ...it sounds idyllic…and perfect for her sheep too!
Cilla also told me about the sheep: ‘Arapawa wool comes from sheep that originated from Arapawa Island in Marlborough Sounds since 130 years ago. Lean, light-boned, alert, bright eyes; they are active sheep and have survived hostile terrain and situations. They are resistant to lots of illnesses such as fly strike and are very good mothers naturally.
You will notice the different texture of the wool as you felt it – the brown is very soft and easy to felt, the grey wool has an elasticity and stretch in it that is completely different from the brown wool.’
Thank you so much Allyson, Cilla, Fernando, Lola and Luna :-)