The success of this project relies on me being able to source fleece to dye and felt that has been 'grown' on Arran. It is not the right season to be sourcing fleece, but the wonderful farmers on Arran have helped me to find some fleece to get started on my project. Some of the fleece 'grown' here on the island might be surprising!
Arran Alpacas ! This may come as a surprise, but we have some beautiful Alpacas on the island. At the Arran Alpacas centre (at Balmichael near Shiskine) you can visit the Alpacas and take them for a walk! And if you chose to stay in one of their very comfortable pods (Balmichael Glamping) you can wake up to a view of Alpacas! I know this is still the early stages of this project to produce a piece of felt art from Arran sourced and dyed fleece but I had been a bit concerned that my final palette of colours would be lacking a really good black as I haven't found any information about natural dyes that would give a strong black dye, but with this fleece I now have a really good black fleece to work with. It was wonderful to meet these beautiful creatures and to get up close!
..and more Arran Alpacas! Just a few miles down the road in Blackwaterfoot is Bellevue Farm. I spent a lovely afternoon meeting the Ailsa and her farm family which includes sheep, cows, pigs, donkeys, chicks, goats and Alpacas. (and more!) Just look at the hairstyle on this beautiful girl - you can't help but smile when you see her! The gorgeous pale coffee colour fleece that she wears is another fantastic addition to the palette of colours that I will be able to work with so I felt very lucky to be able to bring some of her fleece home with me! Bellevue Farm is a fantastic day out whether you are a child or an adult, there is so much to see and learn on one of the excellent farm tours. And if you choose to stay on the farm in one of the farm cottages you will be able to see farm life on your doorstep and might even be able to help out with some of the farm chores.
I was very pleased to get some soft thick white fleece from Ailsa's sheep that will take the natural dyes beautifully so I am really looking forward to experimenting with that.
As you can see Ailsa's sheep pose perfectly for the camera!
...and closer to home in Kildonan at Creagraineach Farm another surprise!
While Herdwicks are usually associated with the fells of the Lake District, these Herdwicks are here on Arran at Creagraineach Farm so you may well see them in the fields around Kildonan. They are such hardy sheep they are well suited for life on the West Coast of Scotland and they produce a lovely natural grey fleece (it looks beautifully soft in this photo but it is quite a strong resilient fleece). My early experiments are proving that with a bit of carding it is a great fibre to felt with.
Creagraineach Farm also has some Blue Faced Leicesters and I have been very lucky to get some of the wonderful curly locks that these sheep produce.
The locks that I have experimented with so far seem to take the dye really well, but even just as a white lock I can see these appearing in a seascape ... or clouds drifting across a sky. I am starting to see felt pictures emerging just by looking at the fleece I have gathered!
Thank you to those that have helped me get the project underway by providing the raw materials to work with.
Do follow my blog or my facebook page to see how my project develops.