Scott Moss: Shepherd, wool processor, dyer & spinner

Diesel, our ram
Our breeding ram, Diesel
Our sheep & chickens
Our sheep & chickens
Shades of Madder
Shades of red from one dye bath

My wife, Linda Moss, and I live on a smallholding in the High Peak district of England where we raise Shetland sheep and heritage breeds of chickens. I shear the sheep using a hand blade and then scour the fleece to remove dirt and oils. Some of the fleece is dyed using vegetable dyes and rest is left in natural Shetland colours which range from a deep, dark brown to white. The scoured fleece, both natural and dyed, is then combed and carded by hand, ready for colour blending and spinning. I produce both "colour gradient" and single-coloured yarns. The colours in both cases are frequently produced by blending different colours of fleece.

There are many different ways of processing wool from fleece-on-the-sheep to spun yarn. On this website, I describe how I get from the fleece-on-the-sheep to finished yarns with various characteristics. I try also to describe alternative approaches and the relative merits and limitations of each alternative. The menu at the top indicates the order in which each step in wool processing is taken. A video summarising the processes I use is to be found here.

Wool in the various stages of processing is widely available to buy from such sites as etsy and ravelry. I can also sell limited quantities of fleece, dyed and undyed combed tops or carded batts which I have already produced. I do enjoy working with spinners, weavers and crocheters to design colours, colour gradients and yarns with different characteristics. If you are interested, my contact details are here.

April 2018

April 17th

Annetto dyed fleece
Annetto=dyed fleece

April 10th

It is now more than a week since Minerva's lambs were born. Our other pregnant ewes look ready to burst but none yet appear to be in labour. Whenever one of them sits off by itself, I think that her time is come. But, then, nothing. Perhaps it is the cold weather we have had.

A few weeks ago, I dyed some of my white Shetland fleece with annatto seed. I achieved a really bright orange with the first dyeing and then a rather lovely apricot with the exhause dye. However, the reds in both cases have faded out of existence even though the fleeces were not in direct sunlight. The effect on the first dyeing is shown in the photo on the left.

We have had some sunshine over the past few days and Linda and I have taken the opportunity to spread plenty of compost over the beds in the vegetable garden and to sow carrot, turnip, beet chard and lettuce seeds. We have alo planted out some of our pea and broadbean seedlings. Our tomato seedlings are coming on in the greenhouse and should be ready for planing in our reusable grow-bags next week. We do particularly well with Roma which is a variety of plum domato. Black Russian is another favourite.

This year we have set aside a bed for dye plants. I have sown seed for woad and madder and arranged swap of woad seedlings for weld seedlings with our friend Kate Greatorex who suns Wiseheart Studio. We do not need to plant nettle since our sheep field has an abundance. We have also used our own carrot tops to good effect getting both a nice yellow using an alum mordant and a good and fast green using an alum mordant and a copper modifier. I used three times the weight of carrot top to the weight of the fleece.

Minerva and lambs
Minerva and lambs
Goldie
Minerva and lambs

April 2nd

The first two lambs of the year were born today to our ewe Brookfold Minerva. Thery were discovered still wet from the womb by two of our helpers, seven-year-old twins Faye and Grace and their nine-year old brother Dexter. The children live next door. Nearly all Shetland lambs are black at birth and change colour over their first year. The children have naming rights (sometimes subject to negotiation) for the sheep but haven't named these two yet. So, for the present, they are just Minerva's ewe lamb and her ram lamb.

We have a new year-old ram which the children have named "Goldie". We bought him because he is a moorit which is a soft fawn-like tan colour. The Shetland Islanders have more than 60 names for differnt markings and colours of the Shetland sheep of which moorit is one. The plain white ones are called mirkface. There is a variety of grey including katmollet, katmoget and sokket (though this list is by no means exhaustive).

We have another four ewes close to giving birth. Watch this space for further announcements.