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Sheep to Shawl project would do much to revive traditional wool craft skills
Jul '09
Julia Desch is on a mission, and if this entrepreneurial Wensleydale sheep breeder achieves her goal it could herald the start of a new era of popularity for the unique wool produced by a host of rare British sheep breeds and invigorate interest in heritage skills such as spinning, knitting, weaving and dyeing.

“I learnt to knit, sew and weave when I was seven years old and those creative skills have influenced the whole of my life. We are cheating children today if we don't pass on to the next generation the practical skills and the joy of making,” says Julia Desch.

Already renowned for her passionate promotion of wool produced by her own flock of Wensleydale sheep at her farm in East Sussex, Julia Desch is now focusing her attention on a countryside renewal project that has earned £10,000 worth of lottery funding and which is committed to promoting a range of wool-based heritage skills.

The “Sheep to Shawl” project – conceived by the successful Woolcraft with Wensleydale Group - is set to encourage and stimulate the growing interest among owners of flocks of rare breed sheep to develop a much wider market for their wool through the skills programme Julia Desch and her committed team are promoting.

Julia Desch is keen to see others join her crusade. “This is a marvelous opportunity to promote the wonderful qualities of rare breed wool and the skills that are the essence of traditional wool production. I hope we will see organizations such as the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, The Guild of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers and the Small Farm Training Groups joining us and giving their full support.”

Tim Booth, Product Development Manager with the British Wool Marketing Board, said the Sheep to Shawl project would do much to revive traditional wool craft skills and raise awareness of the qualities of rare bred wool.

“Julia Desch is to be commended for her continued commitment to wool and to helping small producers make the most of their fleeces. The Sheep to Shawl scheme deserves the full support of all those who have an interest in rare breed wool – either as flock owners or those keen to add value to rare breed wool through spinning, weaving and dyeing” said Mr Booth.

Those who keep rare breed sheep - as well as craft makers, artists and anyone interested in the many skills associated with rare breed wool - are urged to find out more about the Sheep to Shawl project.

A hectic programme of events is already underway and will run until November. There will also be a number of workshops covering natural dyeing, knitting, weaving and peg-looming.

“We want to enhance the skills of those with a passion for rare breed wool in every way possible,” says Julia Desch.

British Wool Marketing Board

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