The Wool Gathering celebrates #WoolWeek 2022
It’s Wool Week 2022, and the GSA Biosphere’s wool project is now more than a year old. Launched in September 2021, The Wool Gathering is exploring old and new uses for fleece from our iconic local breed, the Blackface sheep. Our goal is to widen understanding of the versatility of wool and our region’s hill farming heritage. We also hope to open a few more minds to the potential of Blackface wool to be used in marketable products, whether clothes, accessories, items for the home or garden – or something entirely new we haven’t thought of yet! The project has gained significant momentum during 2022 with high points including ITV’s Border Life programme recording a feature with lead officer Marie McNulty and wool gatherers Laura Derby of Rugaura (pictured below right) and Carsluith farmer Dr Joan Mitchell.
To celebrate Wool Week (which is effectively ‘Wool Month’, running as it does through the whole of October) our team is hosting three in-person events, the first since our visit to the British Wool depot at Galashiels last year. Bleat n’ Blethers will take place at Dalmellington, Castle Douglas and Girvan, to enable as many people as possible to attend from across the Biosphere, whether they are producers, creatives, or business owners working with wool. All three events are free to attend with a light lunch included; the theme is socialising and sharing, with wool as the focal point of conversation. Attendees are encouraged to bring with them ‘sheepy stories’ from their family or farm plus anything they would like to show-and-tell, whether an heirloom item, piece of knitting or crochet, or artwork that incorporates wool. These are informal gatherings where people can make new connections over a shared appreciation of this historic industry.
As of this week the Wool Gathering also has its first knitted samples of Blackface wool, produced by partners Knitlab North on a domestic machine (pictured top of page). The next stage in the project is to create and test prototype items that could eventually be produced for sale, demonstrating the potential of wool that currently holds little monetary value for farmers and which is sometimes simply destroyed.
The Wool Gathering is supported by funding from The Blackface Sheep Breeders’ Association, a nationwide organisation formed more than 120 years ago to promote the interests of the breed which is recorded as early as the 12th century, and even has royal connections – King James IV of Scotland kept a flock in the Ettrick Forest. With its strength and hardiness the Blackface breed is ideally suited to the hill and mountain grazing of the British Isles – including the GSA Biosphere.
Each of the three Bleat n’ Blethers is bookable via the link below with further information about The Wool Gathering project available on request to firstname.lastname@example.org. For those who cannot attend in person The Wool Gathering continues to meet for discussion in its public Facebook group.