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Cambrian Mountain Wool Challenge


I applied for the challenge in a fit of nothing to lose attitude and then didn't hear on the day they said they'd tell you and thought ah well, never mind. I'm busy its a good thing and then the next day the email came...

"Dear Karin

Thank you for your application to the Cambrian Wool Challenge. The Selection panel met this week and I am delighted to inform you that your design has been chosen from an exceptionally high calibre of applications as one of the items to be made and showcased with the Cambrian Mountain Wool."

I told them I would make a sheep. Or a flock of sheep, or it might turn out to be a wolf in sheep's clothing, or a reindeer or who knows. And now I thought oh my bloomingoodnessheck what have I let myself in for!


So the beautiful soft Welsh Mule fleece arrived and after fondling it for a while I thought I'd better get going. Almost too precious to dare to use but I made a start...



So I made a sheep and lamb in rough ready for top coats and colours and final shaping and the beginnings of a sheep dog if I could get a good black for his coat. I asked my woolly friends for advice as I had an idea I'd like to make the sheep from the mountains as it were so I wanted to use plants to dye the fleece that were from the region. They came up trumps and found me Helen Melville living in the Cambrian Mountains. I wrote to her to see if she could source and sell me some dyes from plants grown in the region. She obligingly found some oak galls collected from the Clwydian Hills and sent them off to me as a kit for the black dye with instructions and everything i needed. My mum dyed fleece but I never paid enough attention and wished I had listened a bit more as a teenager rolling my eyes at her being made to go and collect lichens and leaves!

First the oak galls had to be soaked and simmered and then strained into muslin. I knew that sling from when I broke my collarbone at Christmas would come in handy one day! Emily helped boil them up.


King Norty weasel helped strain them because he thought it looked like choklit.



Then the fleece was added to the dye and slowly simmered for a couple of hours



After making up the solution with my lovely old kettle for hot water, the ferrous sulphate mordant was added to help it go black and to stick to the wool. I learned that this mordant used to be called green vitriol today. Mordant means to bite. I like that too!

And now it soaks overnight. Everything crossed it goes black!!


Tomorrow morning I see if it has worked and then I can start to do the sheepdog... and the sheeps' noses and knobbly knees.


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©Karin Celestine  Monmouth, Wales

United Kingdom