The Smiling Sheep

Cottage Industry - Smallholding Life in Devon

Pure Natural Wool

Balwen ewe

We produce a small number of shawls, throws and scarves, hand woven in Devon with the natural, undyed wool of our rare breed sheep and, in 2016, we added Balwen knitting wool (aran and double knit) to our collection.

These are very special and unique gifts, celebrating the history and sustainability of our woolly heritage.

The sheep are shorn each year by Sam - a local shepherd (a former World Young Shepherd of the year!) - as soon as the weather allows, which is normally sometime in June.

Only the older sheep are shorn – the new lambs get to grow their fleece for a full year before they get their first haircut. The older Balwen ewes have dark grey or black fleeces while the first-timers have lovely, rich, chocolatey brown coloured fleeces that set the dominant tone of the finished shawls and throws. The Shetlands have a dense, soft grey coloured fleece - highly prized for its rich quality.

The spinners

Bovey Handloom Weavers

We take the fleeces to the lovely people at The Natural Fibre Company, who are based in Launceston, Cornwall. The fleeces are washed and processed and turned into a high quality wool which is not dyed or altered in any way and retains its completely natural colouring.

The weavers 

The wool then goes to Stuart and Liz at Bovey Handloom Weavers, based in Bovey Tracey on Dartmoor. Liz is the daughter of the original owner and the business has been producing the highest quality woollen products since 1938. Stuart is in charge of the weaving and uses a beautiful, vintage (human powered) loom - as you can see in the photograph (right). It's our wool on the loom..

The designs 

The designs are unique to the Smiling Sheep. The year of weaving of the shawls and throws is signified by a coloured thread woven discreetly into the pattern (2014 was deep red, 2015 is gold) and the number of shawls and throws produced are strictly limited - just 26 in 2014 and 25 in 2015. They measure approximately 160cm x 84cm. Each one incorporates a small amount of contrasting, undyed yarn (in 2015 the yarn came from our lovely little Shetland sheep) to accentuate the deep, rich natural colour. 

The scarves are made of soft, rich Shetland wool with the contrasting stripe pattern picked out in Balwen brown. The scarves are also limited in number (36 in 2015) and measure approximately 184cm x 22cm.

The price is £100 for each throw or shawl and £45 for each scarf. This covers the cost of the shearing, processing and weaving as well as making a contribution towards the upkeep and welfare of the Smiling Sheep animals. Each comes individually numbered and gift wrapped with a provenance card telling of its history.

The knitting wool costs £4.50 for a 50g ball (or £4.00 per ball for orders of 4 or more).

If you are interested in buying one, for yourself, or as a gift (p&p £9 in UK), please contact us here. Further information and pictures on request!


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