Meet Jane the Shepherdess

Meet Jane the Shepherdess

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We’re very lucky to have Jane Bisset of the Kennixton Flock running our upcoming Spin your own yarn workshop on Wednesday June 10th. We asked Jane to tell us a bit about what she does and how she got started…

How did you get involved with knitting, spinning and keeping sheep? Which came first?

My best friend’s grandmother (Nan Buller) taught me to knit (plain & pearl) when I was 7yrs old which must have been a bit of a challenge for her as I’m left-handed. I knitted my first jumper when I was in my 20s as I fell in love with a jumper in a wool shop window and realized the only way I could afford it was to ‘do it myself’. I first tried my hand at spinning about 20 yrs ago when I tried an Ashford Wheel at an exhibition and I loved it. After that I got a drop spindle from a lady who was involved with medieval re-enactment and spun little bits and pieces of wool just for pleasure, without an end use.

The sheep came originally for me to train my collies but Poll Dorset sheep are so domesticated they were not the best choice. Having spent the previous 5yrs lambing with a friend we decided to breed them. That led to showing and, of course, my interest in wool was re-ignited so Del (my partner) bought me an Ashford Traveller spinning wheel so I could spin some of the lovely fleeces that the sheep were growing.

What is your average day as an ‘urban shepherdess’ like?

jane-1FANTASTIC! but utterly exhausting. I am not sure there is such a thing as an average day. Although I have been lucky enough to purchase some land we still live in a small Victorian town house, so the sheep do not live near us. We check the sheep once a day which can involve quite a bit of travelling and time management is a must. Early mornings, late evenings in the summer, seem to make it work.

On the run up to lambing we visit them twice a day and during lambing we move into a caravan so that someone is with them 24/7. There is always something that has to be done and I always seem to be thinking and planning the next event in the shepherding calendar, lambing, shearing, showing, sorting breeding stock, worming, health checks, curing sheepskins, tupping, movements, haymaking, the list is endless.

 What one thing do you wish everyone knew/ understood about wool?

One thing? Wool only comes from sheep… not alpacas, not goats, not rabbits or indeed any other animal – just sheep. It is natural, versatile, sustainable, renewable, warm in winter, cool in summer and unique to every sheep, every year. It is also sheep and the export of their wool that helped build our country. Indeed the speaker of the House of Lords sits on the ‘Wool Sack’

Tell us a bit about your flock.

sheep1Kennixton Sheep are Pedigree Poll Dorset sheep alongside some newly acquired Shetland Sheep. There are quite a few personalities amongst them and because they are a small flock. Because of this you get to know them really well and to be honest they are a constant form of entertainment even when they shouldn’t be.

The Dorset sheep and very laid back and are very friendly and interested in people. I think they actually enjoy going out and about and because we use small pastures for grazing they travel quite a bit. They are nosey, noisy, and I couldn’t imagine not being around them.

The Shetland Sheep are a little more weary. As a breed they have the finest fleeces of any British Native breed. They’ve markings are quite different with 30 different markings being recognised by the Shetland Sheep Society.

What can participants at the workshop expect?

Spin your own yarn is a short taster of how to turn wool from the field into a useable fibre. Participants will learn about choosing a fleece, how to prepare it for spinning, the processes of spinning and how to use a drop spindle to produce their own yarn.

How can people buy your yarn?

I have an Etsy shop called Kennixton Sheep which you can access on the internet. It is also available from La Mercerie, the wool shop on Penny Lane in Cowbridge, Vale of Glamorgan. I also sell, whole fleeces, rolags and batts for spinning and I am happy for people to contact me direct. Follow the flock on twitter @kennixtonsheep

Book a place on our Spin your own yarn workshop next Wednesday and meet Jane the Shepherdess!

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