The Shepherd, The Shearer, and me

When Susan Gibbs recently contacted me to ask me if I’d like to be involved in a new project, I already knew I would say yes. I love everything that Susan does at Juniper Moon Farm, and was thrilled to have an opportunity to work with her. But when she explained precisely what this project was, I was totally blown away. Let me explain: the project’s starting point was the shared desire of Susan and her friend and sheep shearer, Emily Chamelin to raise awareness among knitters of the virtues of really good, hard-wearing wool. As you are all no doubt aware, this is the kind of wool I really love; the kind with which you can knit beautiful, classic garments that will last for years, if not generations; and the kind which is unfortunately often sidelined in today’s luxury-yarn dominated market. While buttery-soft merinos and merino-blends may well be lovely to knit with, they are often not the most hard-wearing. And certainly, when used for sweaters and other outdoor garments, the fabric knitted from such yarns has an unfortunate tendency to look ratty really quickly. As shepherds and shearers, Susan and Emily are often outdoors, and what you need for outdoor work is something properly fit for purpose: namely, a good hard-wearing woolly sweater. So Emily and Susan decided to produce this ideal sweater themselves, totally from scratch. They would purchase fleeces from the clients whose sheep Emily shears, prepare and spin yarn to their own specifications, commission a couple of sweater designs, and then enable knitters to become part of the process by producing these ideal sweaters themselves. I am thrilled to have been invited, together with the redoubtable Kirsten Kapur, to create a sweater design for Emily and Susan.

The fact that shepherding and shearing are male-dominated activities is almost too obvious to state. I love how the project’s logo proudly situates Emily and Susan as representatives of these noble professions, and one of the many laudable elements to this project is that a proportion of the profits will go towards establishing a scholarship to support other women to be trained as shearers. Seriously, there are so many things I love about The Shepherd and The Shearer, that I could gush about it for hours, but I am genuinely, truly honoured to be involved in a project whose whole purpose is to celebrate wool, and to value the work of women.

I’ll be posting more about the project and my involvement in it as time goes on. In the meantime, if you’d like to find out more about The Shepherd and The Shearer, or fancy signing-up to be a knitterly collaborator (spots are very limited, and open today, I believe) then head over to Juniper Moon Farm, where Susan will tell you all about it.