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Discover Loopy Ewes, shepherdess designer-maker
Katie Allen works with the wool from her flock of rare breed British sheep, designing and making a range of limited edition, artisan homewares and lifestyle products that combine contemporary design, quality craftsmanship and true provenance.
Passionate about traceability, she produces beautiful textiles products for the home that can be followed from design, through production and right back to her flock of sheep that graze the Cotswolds countryside. Her happy sheep grow a new fleece every year, which are processed at a specialist woollen mill in Cornwall. She then knits with the yarn in her studio, using a hand powered knitting machine, to create very special pieces with real provenance. For more information about her products you can have a good nosey around her online shop or contact me.
She bought her first sheep in 2011, absolutely determined to work with their wool to produce contemporary, artisan products with real provenance. She doesn’t come from a farming family, it is a passion she grew into, but she rarely feels more comfortable in her own skin than when she is in the field with her flock. It wasn’t how her career started out, she spent several years working in the creative world, but when she started farming it felt like coming home.
In Britain we enjoy a rich agricultural heritage and our rare, native breeds can play an important role in our farming future. They manage our natural pastures extremely well, providing grazing that is both productive yet in balance with the environment. Not only do they graze on the right sort of plants, but often they are lighter than mainstream breeds and do less damage to the ground in poor weather.
Rare breeds tend to offer a smaller, less commercial confirmation, but they make up for it in flavour, succulence and eating quality. Each different breed of sheep has its own intrinsic wool characteristics. Some grow negligible wool, while others have very long fleeces. Some fine wools are worn comfortably by babies, whilst strong wools lasts for centuries. Both Katie’s breeds of sheep offer very different characteristics for wool production and are ideally suited to her products such as cushions, sheepskin rugs, accessories and other homewares products.
Creating the yarn
Her flock of rare breed, British sheep conservation graze on land in the Cotswolds, that is designated as special, species rich pasture. After shearing, she takes their fleeces to the Natural Fibre Company in Cornwall, where it goes through the scouring, carding and spinning process to be made into a chunky knitting yarn. They use organic methods to dye the yarn to her colour specification and if you look closely, in each colour-way you can see the flecks of tan kemp so unique to her Portland breed of sheep.
Making the designs
Katie brings the finished yarn back home to her studio in The Cotswolds where she knits with a hand powered knitting machine. She creates her own designs and enjoys combining bright, vibrant colours to create textiles that bring aesthetic pleasure and a sense of warmth and cosiness into the home. Her craft is new to her, so it’s a continual journey of learning, but she finds it so rewarding to work with such a beautiful and sustainable material. Each stage of the yearly cycle is as important as the next, from delivering beautiful lambs and watching their fleeces grow throughout the season, to shearing time and handing over her wool clip to the mill. Finally, when she runs the threads of yarn through her hands on the knitting machine, knowing she’s spent the year caring for the animals that produced it, she feels profoundly connected to her work.
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