I recently attended a Wool Conference at Bicton College. It gave me an opportunity to meet other like-minded people and I came away with one Ryeland fleece and half of a Castlemilk Moorit fleece.
One of the pleasures of getting hold of a wool I haven’t handled and used before is learning about its origins. The Castlemilk Moorit sheep was bred primarily for its appearance and for decorative use. It’s visual qualities were suited to the grounds of the Castlemilk estate in Dumfriesshire, the home of the Scottish aristocrat Sir Robert William Buchanan Jardine (1866-1927). A keen breeder of animals including cattle, pigs and horses, his livestock breeds continue today.
Rare Breeds Survival Trust
The Castlemilk Moorit is classed as a member of the Northern European Short-Tailed family of sheep. It’s ancestry a mix of Manx Loughtans and moorit Shetland ewes and a mouflon ram. Although the animals graced the lawns of the Castlemilk estate they also provided a high quality wool best suited to handspinning. The sheep were bred on the Castlemilk estate until 1970. When the flock was dispersed six ewes and one ram were obtained by Cotswold Farm Park. It has been the work of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust that has ensured the continuation of this now Critical Conservation Breed. I feel privileged to have half a fleece to work with.
Meaning of “Moorit”
Like the majority of sheep breeds it was named after the place or area on which it lived, hence Castlemilk. Moorit refers to its colour and derives from the languages of the Orkney and Shetland Islands and translates as “red as the moors”. My fleece is more brown than red and there is the temptation to dye it. But I am keen to bring out the natural beauty of the wool and will work with it undyed. I have purchased a small rocking chair from a local auction and my intention is to try needle-felting the wool to make a cover for the seat. I may include other sourced wools and add decoration to the finished piece. In essence the original decorative reason for the existence of the Castlemilk Moorit sheep will influence the final decorative appearance of my chair and seat cover.