Living in the rural recesses of Somerset, it is easy to longingly admire the woollen shawls that adorn the sheep around us. Being the fibre fanatic that she is, it was not long before JillyBean found a way to unite her love of knitting with her long unrequited love of sheep’s wool.
We set off with the aim of being able to support and encourage smallholders, many of whom keep rare sheep and alpaca. These days, there are not many options to dispose of the fleece, with many being simply burnt as disposal is costly.
Thankfully, this is where JillyBean comes in, offering a fair price for what many farmers have treated as a waste product for many seasons past. The fleece is bought at a price that begins to reflect the real costs of keeping rare breed sheep.
Many of the animals we have had the honour of making the acquaintance of are pets, allowing us to categorically be able to name all of the sheep whose wool we’ve pilfered. There’s been a Terrence, a Reginald, a Wallace, a Marjorie and a Norman, to name but a few.
On many occasions, JillyBean is given the chance to select fleeces ‘on the hoof’, which means she can select the best and most interesting wool before the sheep are shorn.
These luxury yarns are all made from animals living in the South West, and indeed, on JillyBean’s arrival to some farms, sheep have been known to flaunt and boast their wares in a catwalk- come-sheepwalk scenario, much to the farmer’s distress.
It is this combination of unique and, on occasion, spectacular, practises that make all JillyBean ‘Sheep We Meet’ wool unrepeatable.
Once the fleece is collected, it is stashed at JillyBean’s Somerset dwelling, and skirted with the help of several unhelpful canine companions, including a very stubborn and bouncy puppy named Tweed. Next, it is rolled and packed and sent away to a small English mill run by 2 yarn connoisseurs, whose small, two-man working system guarantees that the yarn is scoured and spun to the highest possible standard.
The yarn is then shipped back to JillyBean HQ where it is dyed in the family kitchen. The colours and inspiration all come from JillyBean’s exploits around the country, from an autumn walk to bluebells in the woods.
Once adorned with all manner of colours, the yarn is spread garden-wide to dry naturally in the constantly reliable and forever sunny British weather.
All who work with JillyBean believe in sustainable living, in ethically traded goods, in fair pricing, and above all, the wondrous powers of knitting and luxury yarns. Okay, so the 2 men at the mill and the farmers don’t care too much for knitting, but it’s only a matter of time before they are persuaded into crafting for themselves scarves and hats for the coming winter months.
We hope that this offering of one-off selection of ‘Sheep We Meet’ skeins will satisfy your knitting desires, and your conscience, as you support many small time farmers and the keepers of rare breed sheep and alpaca.
Enjoy wool, enjoy knitting, enjoy life. We can’t wait to make more.